The Collected Works of Ambrose Bierce

Volume V: Black Beetles in Amber


Most of the verses in this volume are republished from newspapers and periodicals of the Pacific Coast. Naturally, the collection includes few not relating to persons and events more or less familiar to the people of that interesting region⁠—to whom, indeed, the volume may be considered as especially addressed, though not without a hope that its contents may be found to have a sufficient intrinsic interest to commend it to others.

In answer to the familiar criticism that the author has dealt mostly with obscure persons, “unknown to fame,” he begs leave to point out that he has done what he could to lessen the force of the objection by dispelling some part of their obscurity and awarding them such fame as he was able to bestow. If the work meet with acceptance commentators will doubtless be “raised up” to give them an added distinction and make exposition of the circumstances through which they took attention, whereby the work will have a growing interest to those with the patience to wait.

Further to fortify this apologia, I quote from my publishers the following relevant and judicious remarks on a kind of literature that is somewhat imperfectly understood in this night of its neglect:

“In all the most famous satires in our language the victims would now be unknown were it not that they have been preserved ‘in amber’ by the authors. The enlightened lover of satire cares little of whom it was written, but much for what is said, and more for how it is said. No one but critics and commentators troubles himself as to the personality of the always obscure hero of The Dunciad and the nobodies distinguished by the pens of Swift, Butler, Wolcott and the other masters of English satire; yet the work of these men is no less read than it was in their day. The same is true of Aristophanes, Horace and the other ancient censors of men and manners.”

Regarding the repeated appearance of certain offenders in the skits and drolleries of this book, I can only say that during the considerable period covered by the author’s efforts to reclaim them they manifested a deplorable, and doubtless congenital, propensity to continuance in sin.


I dreamed I was dreaming one morn as I lay
In a garden with flowers teeming⁠—
On an island I lay, in a mystical bay,
In the dream that I dreamed I was dreaming.

The ghost of a scent⁠—had it followed me there
From the place where I truly was resting?
It filled like an anthem the aisles of the air,
The presence of roses attesting.

Yet I thought in the dream that I dreamed I dreamed
That the place was all barren of roses⁠—
That it only seemed; and the place, I deemed,
Was the Isle of Bedeviled Noses.

Full many a seaman had testified
How all who sailed near were enchanted,
And landed to search (and in searching died)
For the roses the Sirens had planted.

For the Sirens were dead, and the billows boomed
In the stead of their singing forever;
But the roses bloomed on the graves of the doomed,
Though man had discovered them never.

I thought in my dream ’twas an idle tale,
A delusion that mariners cherished⁠—
That the fragrance loading the conscious gale
Was the ghost of a garden long perished.

I said, “I will fly from this island of woes,”
And acting on that decision,
By that odor of rose I was led by the nose,
For ’twas truly, ah! truly, Elysian.

I ran, in my madness, to seek out the source
Of the redolent river⁠—directed
By some supernatural, sinister force
To a forest, dark, haunted, infected.

And still as I threaded (’twas all in the dream
That I dreamed I was dreaming) each turning
There were many a scream and a sudden gleam
Of eyes all uncannily burning!

The leaves were all wet with a horrible dew
That mirrored the red moon’s crescent,
And all shapes were fringed with a ghostly blue,
Dim, wavering, phosphorescent.

But the fragrance divine, coming strong and free,
Led me on in my resolute seeking,
Till⁠—ah, joy!⁠—I could see, on the limbs of a tree,
Mine enemies hanging and reeking!


Lord, shed thy light upon his desert path,
And gild his branded brow, that no man spill
His forfeit life to balk Thy holy will
That spares him for the ripening of wrath.

Already, lo! the red sign is descried,
To trembling jurors visibly revealed:
The prison doors obediently yield,
The baffled hangman flings the cord aside.

Powell, the brother’s blood that marks your trail⁠—
Hark, how it cries against you from the ground,
Like the far baying of the tireless hound.
Faith! to your ear it is no nightingale.

What signifies the date upon a stone?
To-morrow you shall die if not to-day.
What matter when the Avenger choose to slay?
Or soon or late the Devil gets his own.

Thenceforth through all eternity you’ll hold
No one advantage of the later death.
Though you had granted Ralph another breath
Would he to-day less silent lie and cold?

Earth cares not, curst assassin, when you die;
You never will be readier than now.
Wear, in God’s name, that mark upon your brow,
And keep the life you purchased with a lie!

One Judge

Wallace, created on a noble plan
To show us that a Judge can be a Man;
Through moral mire exhaling mortal stench
God-guided sweet and foot-clean to the Bench;
In salutation here and sign I lift
A hand as free as yours from lawless thrift,
A heart⁠—ah, would I truly could proclaim
My bosom lighted with so pure a flame!
Alas, not love of justice moves my pen
To praise, or to condemn, my fellow men.
Good will and ill its busy point incite:
I do but gratify them when I write.
In palliation, though, I’d humbly state,
I love the righteous and the wicked hate.
So, sir, although we differ we agree,
Our work alike from persecution free,
And Heaven, approving you, consents to me.
Take, therefore, from this not all useless hand
The crown of honor⁠—not in all the land
One honest man dissenting from the choice,
Nor in approval one Fred Crocker’s voice!

An Obituarian

A newspaper Death-poet sat at his desk,
Wrapped in appropriate gloom;
His posture was pensive and picturesque,
Like a raven charming a tomb.

Enter a party a-drinking the cup
Of sorrow⁠—and likewise of woe:
“Some harrowing poetry, Mister, whack up,
All wrote in the key of O.

“For the angels have called my old woman hence
From the strife⁠—where she fit mighty free.
It’s a nickel a line? Cond⁠⸺⁠n the expense!
For wealth is now little to me.”

The Bard of Mortality looked him through
In the piercingest sort of a way:
“It is much to me though it’s little to you⁠—
I’ve taken a wife to-day.”

So he twisted the tail of his mental cow
And made her give down her flow.
The grief of that bard was long-winded, somehow⁠—
There was reams and reamses of woe.

The widower man which had buried his wife
Grew lily-like round each gill,
For she turned in her grave and came back to life!
Then he cruel ignored the bill.

Then Sorrow she opened her gates a-wide,
As likewise did also Woe,
And the death-poet’s song, as is heard inside,
Is sang in the key of O.

A Commuted Sentence

Boruck and Waterman upon their grills
In Hades lay, with many a sigh and groan,
Hotly disputing, for each swore his own
Were clearly keener than the other’s ills.
And, truly, each had much to boast of⁠—bone
And sinew, muscle, tallow, nerve and skin,
Blood in the vein and marrow in the shin,
Teeth, eyes and other organs (for the soul
Has all of these and even a wagging chin)
All Blazed and coruscated like a coal!
For Lower Sacramento, you remember,
Has trying weather, even in mid-December.

Now this occurred in the far future. All
Mankind had been a million ages dead,
And each to her reward above had sped,
Each to his punishment below⁠—I call
That quite a just arrangement. As I said,
Boruck and Waterman in warmest pain
Crackled and sizzed with all their might and main.
For, when on earth, they’d freed a scurvy host
Of crooks from the State prison, who again
Had robbed and ravaged the Pacific Coast
And (such the felon’s predatory nature)
Even got themselves into the Legislature.

So Waterman and Boruck lay and roared
In Hades. It is true all other males
Felt the like flames and uttered equal wails,
But did not suffer them; whereas they bored
Each one the other. But indeed my tale’s
Not getting on at all. They lay and browned
Till Boruck (who long since his teeth had ground
Away and spoke Gum Arabic and made
Stump speeches even in praying) looked around
And said to Bob’s incinerated shade:
“Your Excellency, this is mighty hard on
The inventors of the unpardonable pardon.”

The other soul⁠—his right hand all aflame,
For ’twas with that he’d chiefly sinned, although
His tongue, too, like a wick was working woe
To the reserve of tallow in his frame⁠—
Said, with a sputtering, uncertain flow,
And with a gesture like a shaken torch:
“Yes, but I’m sure we’ll not much longer scorch.
Although this climate is not good for Hope,
Whose joyous wing ’twould singe, I think the porch
Of Hell we’ll quit with a pacific slope.
Last century I signified repentance
And asked for commutation of our sentence.”

Even as he spoke, the form of Satan loomed
In sight, all crimson with reflection’s fire,
Like some tall tower or cathedral spire
Touched by the dawn while all the earth is gloomed
In mists and shadows of the night time. “Sire,”
Said Waterman, his agitable wick
Still sputtering, “what calls you back so quick?
It scarcely was a century ago
You left us.” “I have come to bring,” said Nick,
“St. Peter’s answer (he is never slow
In correspondence) to your application
For pardon⁠—pardon me!⁠—for commutation.

“He says that he’s instructed to reply
(And he has so instructed me) that sin
Like yours⁠—and this poor gentleman’s who’s in
For bad advice to you⁠—comes rather high;
But since, apparently, you both begin
To feel some pious promptings to the right,
And fain would turn your faces to the light,
Eternity seems all too long a term.
So ’tis commuted to one-half. I’m quite
Prepared, when that expires, to free the worm
And quench the fire.” And, civilly retreating,
He left them holding their protracted meeting.

A Lifted Finger

The Chronicle did a great public service in whipping ⸻ and his fellow-rascals out of office.
M. H. de Young’s Newspaper

What! you whip rascals?⁠—you, whose gutter blood
Bears, in its dark, dishonorable flood,
Enough of prison-birds’ prolific germs
To serve a whole eternity of terms?
You, for whose back the rods and cudgels strove
Ere yet the ax had hewn them from the grove?
You, the De Young whose splendor bright and brave
Is phosphorescence from another’s grave⁠—
Till now unknown, by any chance or luck,
Even to the hearts at which you feebly struck?
You whip a rascal out of office?⁠—you
Whose leadless weapon once ignobly blew
Its smoke in six directions to assert
Your lack of appetite for others’ dirt?

Practice makes perfect: when for fame you thirst,
Then whip a rascal. Whip a cripple first.
Or, if for action you’re less free than bold
(Your palms both brimming with dishonest gold)
Entrust the castigation that you’ve planned,
As once before, to woman’s idle hand.
So in your spirit shall two pleasures join
To slake the sacred thirst for blood and coin.
Blood? Souls have blood, even as the body hath,
And, spilled, ’twill fertilize the field of wrath.
Lo! in a purple gorge of yonder hills,
Where o’er a grave a bird its day-song stills,
A woman’s blood, through roses ever red,
Mutely appeals for vengeance on your head.
Slandered to death to serve a sordid end,
She called you murderer and called me friend.

Now, mark you, libeler, this course if you
Dare to maintain, or rather to renew;
If one short year’s immunity has made
You blink again the perils of your trade⁠—
The ghastly sequence of the maddened “knave,”
The hot encounter and the colder grave;
If the grim, dismal lesson you ignore
While yet the stains are fresh upon your floor,
And calmly march upon the fatal brink
With eyes averted to your trail of ink,
Counting unkind the services of those
Who pull, to hold you back, your stupid nose,
The day for you to die is not so far,
Or, at the least, to live the thing you are!

Pregnant with possibilities of crime,
And full of felons for all coming time,
Your blood’s too precious to be lightly spilt
In testimony to a venial guilt.
Live to get whelpage and preserve a name
No praise can sweeten and no lie unshame.
Live to fulfill the vision that I see
Down the dim vistas of the time to be:
A dream of clattering beaks and burning eyes
Of hungry ravens glooming all the skies;
A dream of gleaming teeth and foetid breath
Of jackals wrangling at the feast of death;
A dream of broken necks and swollen tongues⁠—
The whole world’s gibbets loaded with De Youngs!

Two Delegates

In that fair city by the inland sea
Where Blaine unhived his Presidential bee
Frank Pixley’s meeting with George Gorham sing,
Celestial muse, and what events did spring
From the encounter of those mighty sons
Of thunder, and of slaughter, and of guns.
Great Gorham first, his yearning tooth to sate
And give him stomach for the day’s debate,
Entering a restaurant, with eager mien
Demands an ounce of bacon and a bean.
The trembling waiter, by the statesman’s eye
Smitten with terror, hastens to comply;
Nor chairs nor tables can his speed retard,
For famine’s fixed and horrible regard
He takes for menace. As he shaking flew,
Lo! the portentous Pixley heaved in view!
Before him yawned invisible the cell,
Unheard, behind, the warden’s footsteps fell.
Thrice in convention rising to his feet,
He thrice had been thrust back into his seat;
Thrice had protested, been reminded thrice
The nation had no need of his advice.
Balked of his will to set the people right,
His soul was gloomy though his hat was white.
So fierce his mien, with provident accord
The waiters swarmed him, thinking him a lord.
He spurned them, roaring grandly to their chief:
“Give me (Fred Crocker pays) a leg of beef!”
His wandering eye’s deluminating flame
Fell upon Gorham and the crisis came!
For Pixley scowled and darkness filled the room
Till Gorham’s flashing orbs dispelled the gloom.
The patrons of the place, by fear dismayed,
Sprang to the street and left their scores unpaid.
So, when Jove thunders and his lightnings gleam
To sour the milk and curdle, too, the cream,
And storm-clouds gather, o’er the shadowed hill,
The ass forsakes his hay, the pig his swill.
Hotly the heroes now fell to⁠—their breath
Came short and hard, as in the throes of death.
They clenched their hands, their weapons brandished high,
Cut, stabbed, and hewed, nor uttered any cry,
But gnashed their teeth and struggled on! In brief,
One ate his bacon, t’other one his beef.

Matter for Gratitude

Especially should we be thankful for having escaped the ravages of the yellow scourge by which our neighbors have been so sorely afflicted.
Governor Stoneman’s Thanksgiving Proclamation

Be pleased, O Lord, to take a people’s thanks
That Thine avenging sword has spared our ranks⁠—
That thou hast parted from our lips the cup
And forced our neighbors’ lips to drink it up.
Father of Mercies, with a heart contrite
We thank Thee that Thou goest south to smite,
And sparest San Francisco’s loins, to crack
Thy lash on Hermosillo’s bleeding back⁠—
That o’er our homes Thine awful angel spread
His wings in vain, and Guaymas weeps instead.

We praise Thee, God, that Yellow Fever here
His horrid banner has not dared to rear,
Consumption’s jurisdiction to contest,
Her dagger deep in every second breast!
Catarrh and Asthma and Congestive Chill
Attest Thy bounty and perform Thy will.
These native messengers obey Thy call⁠—
They summon singly, but they summon all.
Not, as in Mexico’s impested clime,
Can Yellow Jack commit recurring crime.
We thank Thee that Thou killest all the time.

Thy tender mercies, Father, never end:
Upon all heads Thy blessings still descend,
Though their forms vary. Here the sown seeds yield
Abundant grain that whitens all the field⁠—
There the smit corn stands barren on the plain,
Thrift reaps the straw and Famine gleans in vain.
Here the fat priest to the contented king
Points to the harvest and the people sing⁠—
There mothers eat their offspring. Well, at least
Thou hast provided offspring for the feast.
An earthquake here rolls harmless through the land,
And Thou art good because the chimneys stand⁠—
There templed cities sink into the sea,
And damp survivors, shrieking as they flee,
Skip to the hills and hold a celebration
In honor of Thy wise discrimination.

O God, forgive them all, from Stoneman down,
Thy smile who construe and expound Thy frown,
And fall with saintly grace upon their knees
To render thanks when Thou dost only sneeze.

Three Kinds of a Rogue

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—that 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 blare 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.

A Man

Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Casting to South his eye across the bourne
Of his dominion (where the Palmiped,
With leathers ’twixt his toes, paddles his marsh,
Amphibious) saw a rising cloud of hats,
And heard a faint, far sound of distant cheers
Below the swell of the horizon. “Lo,”
Cried one, “the President! the President!”
All footed webwise then took up the word⁠—
The hill tribes and the tribes lacustrine⁠—all
The folk riparian and littoral,
Cried with one voice: “The President! He comes!”
And some there were who flung their headgear up
In emulation of the Southern mob,
While some, more soberly disposed, stood still
And silently had fits; and others made
Such reverent genuflections as they could,
Having that climate in their bones. Then spake
The Court Dunce, humbly, as became him: “Sire,
If thou, as heretofore thou hast, wilt deign
To reap advantage of a fool’s advice
By action ordered after nature’s way,
As in thy people manifest (for still
Stupidity’s the only wisdom) thou
Wilt get thee straight unto to the border land
To mark the President’s approach with such
Due, decent courtesy as it shall seem
We have in custom the best warrant for.”

Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Eyeing the storm of hats which darkened all
The Southern sky, and hearing far hurrahs
Of an exulting people, answered not.
Then some there were who fell upon their knees,
And some upon their Governor, and sought
Each in his way, by blandishment or force,
To gain his action to their end. “Behold,”
They said, “thy brother Governor to South
Met him even at the gateway of his realm,
Crook-kneed, magnetic-handed and agrin,
Backed like a rainbow⁠—all things done in form
Of due observance and respect. Shall we
Alone of all his servitors refuse
Swift welcome to our master and our lord?”

Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Answered them not, but turned his back to them
And as if speaking to himself, the while
He started to retire, said: “He be damned!”

To that High Place o’er Portland’s central block,
Where the Recording Angel stands to view
The sinning world, nor thinks to move his feet
Aside and look below, came flocking up
Inferior angels, all aghast, and cried:
“Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon,
Has said, O what an awful word!⁠—too bad
To be by us repeated!” “Yes, I know,”
Said the superior bird⁠—“I heard it too,
And have already booked it. Pray observe.”
Splitting the giant tome, whose covers fell
Apart, o’ershadowing to right and left
The Eastern and the Western world, he showed
The newly written entry, black and big⁠—
Upon the credit side of thine account,
Pennoyer, Governor of Oregon.

Y’e Foe to Cathaye

O never an oathe sweares he,
And never a pig-taile jerkes;
With a brick-batte he ne lurkes
For to buste ye crust, perdie,
Of ye man from over sea,
A-synging as he werkes.
For he knows ful well, ys youth,
A tricke of exceeding worth:
And he plans withouten ruth
A conflagration’s birth!

Samuel Shortridge

Like a worn mother he attempts in vain
To still the unruly Crier of his brain:
The more he rocks the cradle of his chin,
The more uproarious grows the brat within.

At a “National Encampment”

You’re grayer than one would have thought you:
The climate you have over there
In the East has apparently brought you
Disorders affecting the hair,
Which⁠—pardon me⁠—seems a bit spare.

You’ll not take offence at my giving
Expression to notions like these.
You might have been stronger if living
Out here in our sanative breeze.
It’s unhealthy here for disease.

No, I’m not as plump as a pullet,
But that’s the old wound, you see.
Remember my paunching a bullet?⁠—
And how that it didn’t agree
With⁠—well, honest hardtack for me.

Just pass me the wine⁠—I’ve a helly
And horrible kind of drouth!
When a fellow has that in his belly
Which didn’t go in at his mouth
He’s hotter than all Down South!

Great Scott! what a nasty day that was⁠—
When every galoot in our crack
Division who didn’t lie flat was
Dissuaded from further attack
By the bullet’s felicitous whack.

’Twas there that our major slept under
Some cannon of ours on the crest,
Till they woke him by stilling their thunder,
And he cursed them for breaking his rest,
And died in the midst of his jest.

That night⁠—it was late in November⁠—
The dead seemed uncommonly chill
To the touch; and one chap I remember
Who took it exceedingly ill
When I dragged myself over his bill.

Well, comrades, I’m off now⁠—good morning.
Your talk is as pleasant as pie,
But, pardon me, one word of warning:
Speak little and seldom, say I.
That’s my way. God bless you. Good-bye.


Says Anderson, Theosophist:
“Among the many that exist
In modern halls.
Some lived in ancient Egypt’s clime,
And in their childhood saw the prime
Of Karnak’s walls.”

Ah, Anderson, if that is true
’Tis my conviction, sir, that you
Are one of those
That once resided by the Nile⁠—
Peer to the Sacred Crocodile,
Heir to his woes.

My judgment is, the Holy Cat
Mews through your larynx (and your hat)
These many years.
Through you the Hallowed Onion brings
Its melancholy sense of things,
And moves to tears.

In you the Bull Divine again
Bellows and paws the dusty plain,
To nature true.
I challenge not his ancient hate,
But, lowering my knurly pate,
Lock horns with you.

And though Reincarnation prove
A creed too stubborn to remove,
And all your school
Of Theosophs I cannot scare⁠—
All the more earnestly I swear
That you’re a fool!

You’ll say that this is mere abuse
Without, in fraying you, a use.
That’s plain to see
With only half an eye. Come, now,
Be fair, be fair⁠—consider how
It eases me.


The moon in the field of the keel-plowed main
Was watching the growing tide;
A luminous peasant was driving his wain,
And he offered my soul a ride.

But I nourished a sorrow uncommonly tall,
And I fixed him fast with my eye.
“O, peasant,” I sang with a dying fall,
“Go leave me to sing and die.”

The water was weltering round my feet,
As prone on the beach they lay.
I chanted my death-song loud and sweet:
“Kioodle, ioodle, iay!”

Then I heard the swish of erecting ears
Which caught that enchanting strain.
The ocean was swollen with storms of tears
That fell from the shining swain.

“O, poet,” leapt he to the soaken strand,
“That ravishing song would make
The devil a saint!” He held out his hand
And solemnly added: “Shake.”

We shook. “I crave a victim, you see,”
He said⁠—“you came hither to die.”
The Angel of Death, ’twas he! ’twas he!
And the victim he crove was I!

’Twas I, Fred Emerson Brooks, the bard;
And he knocked me on the head.
O Lord! I thought it uncommonly hard,
For I didn’t want to be dead.

“You’ll sing no worser for that,” said he,
And he drove with my soul away.
O, death-song singers, be warned by me,
Kioodle, ioodle, iay!


The Seraphs came to Christ and said: “Behold!
The man, presumptuous and overbold,
Who boasted that his mercy could excel
Thine own, is dead and on his way to Hell.”

Gravely the Savior asked: “What did he do
To make his impious assertion true?”

“He was a Governor, releasing all
The vilest felons ever held in thrall.
No other mortal, since the dawn of time,
Has ever pardoned such a mass of crime!”

Christ smiled benignly on the Seraphim:
“Yet I am victor, for I pardon him.”

A Vision of Doom

I stood upon a hill. The setting sun
Was crimson with a curse and a portent,
And scarce his angry ray lit up the land
That lay below, whose lurid gloom appeared
Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up
From dim tarns hateful with some horrid ban,
Took shapes forbidden and without a name.
Gigantic night-birds, rising from the reeds
With cries discordant, startled all the air,
And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom⁠—
The ghosts of blasphemies long ages stilled,
And shrieks of women, and men’s curses. All
These visible shapes, and sounds no mortal ear
Had ever heard, some spiritual sense
Interpreted, though brokenly; for I
Was haunted by a consciousness of crime,
Some giant guilt, but whose I knew not. All
These things malign, by sight and sound revealed,
Were sin-begotten; that I knew⁠—no more⁠—
And that but dimly, as in dreadful dreams
The sleepy senses babble to the brain
Imperfect witness. As I stood, a voice,
But whence it came I knew not, cried aloud
Some words to me in a forgotten tongue,
Yet straight I knew me for a ghost forlorn,
Returned from the illimited inane.
Again, but in a language that I knew,
As in reply to something which in me
Had shaped itself a thought, but found no words,
It spake from the dread mystery about:

“Immortal shadow of a mortal soul
That perished with eternity, attend.
What thou beholdest is as void as thou:
The shadow of a poet’s dream⁠—himself
As thou, his soul as thine, long dead,
But not like thine outlasted by its shade.
His dreams alone survive eternity
As pictures in the unsubstantial void.
Excepting thee and me (and we because
The poet wove us in his thought) remains
Of nature and the universe no part
Nor vestige but the poet’s dreams. This dread,
Unspeakable land about thy feet, with all
Its desolation and its terrors⁠—lo!
’Tis but a phantom world. So long ago
That God and all the angels since have died
That poet lived⁠—yourself long dead⁠—his mind
Filled with the light of a prophetic fire,
And standing by the Western sea, above
The youngest, fairest city in the world,
Named in another tongue than his for one
Ensainted, saw its populous domain
Plague-smitten with a nameless shame. For there
Red-handed murder rioted; and there
The people gathered gold, nor cared to loose
The assassin’s fingers from the victim’s throat,
But said, each in his vile pursuit engrossed:
‘Am I my brother’s keeper? Let the Law
Look to the matter.’ But the Law did not.
And there, O pitiful! the babe was slain
Within its mother’s breast and the same grave
Held babe and mother; and the people smiled,
Still gathering gold, and said: ‘The Law, the Law.’
Then the great poet, touched upon the lips
With a live coal from Truth’s high altar, raised
His arms to heaven and sang a song of doom⁠—
Sang of the time to be, when God should lean
Indignant from the Throne and lift His hand,
And that foul city be no more!⁠—a tale,
A dream, a desolation and a curse!
No vestige of its glory should survive
In fact or memory: its people dead,
Its site forgotten, and its very name

“Was the prophecy fulfilled?”

The sullen disc of the declining sun
Was crimson with a curse and a portent,
And scarce his angry ray lit up the land
Freaked with a moving mist, which, reeking up
From dim tarns hateful with a horrid ban,
Took shapes forbidden and without a name.
And bodiless voices babbled in the gloom.
But not to me came any voice again;
And, covering my face with thin, dead hands,
I wept, and woke, and cried aloud to God!

Religious Progress

Every religion is important. When men rise above existing conditions a new religion comes in, and it is better than the old one.
Professor Howison

Professor dear, I think it queer
That all these good religions
(’Twixt you and me, some two or three
Are schemes for plucking pigeons)⁠—

I mean ’tis strange that every change
Our poor minds to unfetter
Entails a new religion⁠—true
As t’ other one, and better.

From each in turn the truth we learn,
That wood or flesh or spirit
May justly boast it rules the roast
Until we cease to fear it.

Nay, once upon a time long gone
Man worshipped Cat and Lizard:
His God he’d find in any kind
Of beast, from a to izzard.

When risen above his early love
Of dirt and blood and slumber,
He pulled down these vain deities,
And made one out of lumber.

“Far better that than even a cat,”
The Howisons all shouted;
“When God is wood religion’s good!”
But one poor cynic doubted.

“A timber God⁠—that’s very odd!”
Said Progress, and invented
The simple plan to worship Man,
Who, kindly soul! consented.

But soon our eye we lift asky,
Our vows all unregarded,
And find (at least so says the priest)
The Truth⁠—and Man’s discarded.

Along our line of march recline
Dead gods devoid of feeling;
And thick about each sun-cracked lout
Dried Howisons are kneeling.

The Fall of Miss Larkin

Hear me sing of Sally Larkin who, I’d have you understand,
Played accordions as well as any lady in the land;
And I’ve often heard it stated that her fingering was such
That Professor Schweinenhauer was enchanted with her touch;
And that beasts were so affected when her apparatus rang
That they dropped upon their haunches and deliriously sang.
This I know from testimony, though a critic, I opine,
Needs an ear that is dissimilar in some respects to mine.
She could sing, too, like a jaybird, and they say all eyes were wet
When Sally and the ranch-dog were performing a duet⁠—
Which I take it is a song that has to be so loudly sung
As to overtax the strength of any single human lung.
That, at least, would seem to follow from the tale I have to tell,
Which (I’ve told you how she flourished) is how Sally Larkin fell.

One day there came to visit Sally’s dad as sleek and smart
A chap as ever wandered there from any foreign part.
Though his gentle birth and breeding he did not at all obtrude
It was somehow whispered round he was a simon-pure Dude.
Howsoe’er that may have been, it was conspicuous to see
That he was a real Gent of an uncommon high degree.
That Sally cast her tender and affectionate regards
On this exquisite creation was, of course, upon the cards;
But he didn’t seem to notice, and was variously blind
To her many charms of person and the merits of her mind,
And preferred, I grieve to say it, to play poker with her dad,
And acted in a manner that in general was bad.

One evening⁠—’twas in summer⁠—she was holding in her lap
Her accordion, and near her stood that melancholy chap,
Leaning up against a pillar with his lip in grog imbrued,
Thinking, maybe, of that ancient land in which he was a Dude.
Then Sally, who was melancholy too, began to hum
And elongate the accordion with a preluding thumb.
Then sighs of amorosity she painfully exhaled,
And her music apparatus sympathetically wailed.
“In the gloaming, O my darling!” rose that wild impassioned strain,
And her eyes were fixed on his with an intensity of pain,
Till the ranch-dog from his kennel at the postern gate came round,
And going into session strove to magnify the sound.
He lifted up his spirit till the gloaming rang and rang
With the song that to his darling he impetuously sang!
Then that musing youth, recalling all his soul from other scenes,
Where his fathers all were Dudes and his mothers all Dudines,
From his lips removed the beaker and politely, o’er the grog,
Said: “Miss Larkin, please be quiet: you will interrupt the dog.”

A Rendezvous

Nightly I put up this humble petition:
“Forgive me, O Father of Glories,
My sins of commission, my sins of omission,
My sins of the Mission Dolores!”


Hard by an excavated street one sat
In solitary session on the sand;
And ever and anon he spake and spat
And spake again⁠—a yellow skull in hand,
To which that retrospective Pioneer
Addressed the few remarks that follow here:

“Who are you? Did you come ‘der blains agross,’
Or ‘Horn aroundt’? In days o’ ’49
Did them thar eye-holes see the Southern Cross
From the Antarctic Sea git up an’ shine?
Or did you drive a bull team ‘all the way
From Pike,’ with Mr. Joseph Bowers?⁠—say!

“Was you in Frisco when the water came
Up to Montgum’ry street? and do you mind
The time when Peters run the faro game⁠—
Jim Peters from old Mississip⁠—behind
Wells Fargo’s, where he subsequent was bust
By Sandy, as regards both bank and crust?

“I wonder was you here when Casey shot
James King o’ William? And did you attend
The neck-tie dance ensuin’? I did not,
But j’ined the rush to Go Creek with my friend
Ed’ard McGowan; for we was resolved
In sech diversions not to be involved.

“Maybe I knowed you; seems to me I’ve seed
Your face afore. I don’t forget a face,
But names I disremember⁠—I’m that breed
Of owls. I’m talking some’at into space,
An’ maybe my remarks is too derned free,
Seein’ yer name is unbeknown to me.

“Ther’ was a time, I reckon, when I knowed
Nigh onto every dern galoot in town.
That was as late as ’50. Now she’s growed
Surprisin’! Yes, me an’ my pardner, Brown,
Was wide acquainted. If ther’ was a cuss
We didn’t know, the cause was⁠—he knowed us.

“Maybe you had that claim adjoinin’ mine
Up thar in Calaveras. Was it you
To which Long Mary took a mighty shine,
An’ throwed squar’ off on Jake the Kangaroo?
I guess if she could see ye now she’d take
Her chance o’ happiness along o’ Jake.

“You ain’t so purty now as you was then:
Yer eyes is nothin’ but two prospect holes,
An’ women which are hitched to better men
Would hardly for sech glances damn their souls,
As Lengthie did. By God! I hope it’s you,
For” (kicks the skull) “I’m Jake the Kangaroo.”

Stanford’s Welcome

“O son of mine age, these eyes lose their fire:
Be eyes, I pray, to thy dying sire.”

“O father, fear not, for mine eyes are bright⁠—
I read through a millstone at dead of night.”

“My son, O tell me, who are those men,
Rushing, like pigs to the feeding-pen?”

“Welcomers they of a statesman grand.
They’ll shake, and then they will pocket, his hand.”

“Sagacious youth with the wondrous eye.
They seem to throw up their headgear. Why?”

“Because they’ve thrown up their hands until, O,
They’re so tired!⁠—and dinners they’ve none to throw.”

“My son, my son, though dull are mine ears,
I hear a great sound like the people’s cheers.”

“He’s thanking them, father, with tears in his eyes,
For giving him lately that fine surprise.”

“My memory fails as I near mine end;
How did they astonish their grateful friend?”

“By letting him buy, like apples or oats,
With that which has made him so good, the votes
Which make him so wise and grand and great.
Now, father, please die, for ’tis growing late.”

Posterity’s Award

I’d long been dead, but I returned to earth.
Some small affairs posterity was making
A mess of, and I came to see that worth
Received its dues. I’d hardly finished waking,
The grave-mould still upon me, when my eye
Perceived a statue standing straight and high.

’Twas a colossal figure⁠—bronze and gold⁠—
Nobly designed, in attitude commanding.
A toga from its shoulders, fold on fold,
Fell to the pedestal on which ’twas standing.
Nobility it had and splendid grace,
And all it should have had⁠—except a face!

It showed no features: not a trace nor sign
Of any eyes or nose could be detected⁠—
On the smooth oval of its front no line
Where sites for mouths are commonly selected.
All blank and blind its faulty head it reared.
Let this be said: ’twas generously eared.

Seeing these things, I straight began to guess
For whom this mighty image was intended.
“The head,” I cried, “is Upton’s, and the dress
Is Parson Bartlett’s own.” True, his cloak ended
Flush with his lowest vertebra, but no
Sane sculptor ever made a toga so.

Then on the pedestal these words I read:
Erected Eighteen Hundred Ninety-seven
(Saint Christofer! how fast the time had sped!
Of course it naturally does in Heaven)
To ⸻” (here a blank space for the name began)
The Nineteenth Century’s Great Foremost Man!

Completed” the inscription ended, “in
The Year Three Thousand“⁠—which was just arriving.
By Jove! thought I, ’twould make the founders grin
To learn whose fame so long has been surviving⁠—
To read the name posterity will place
In that blank void, and view the finished face.

Even as I gazed, the year Three Thousand came,
And then by acclamation all the people
Decreed whose was our century’s best fame;
Then scaffolded the statue like a steeple,
To make the likeness; and the name was sunk
Deep in the pedestal’s metallic trunk.

Whose was it? Gentle reader, pray excuse
The seeming rudeness, but I can’t consent to
Be so forehanded with important news.
’Twas neither yours nor mine⁠—let that content you.
If not, the name I must surrender, which,
Upon a dead man’s word, was Deacon Fitch!

An Art Critic

Ira P. Rankin, you’ve a nasal name⁠—
I’ll sound it through “the speaking-trump of fame,”
And wondering nations, hearing from afar
The brazen twang of its resounding jar,
Shall say: “These bards are an uncommon class⁠—
They blow their noses with a tube of brass!”

So you object to Cytherea! Do,
The picture was not painted, sir, for you!
Your mind to gratify and taste address,
The masking dove had been a dove the less.
Provincial censor! all untaught in art,
With mind indecent and indecent heart,
Do you not know⁠—nay, why should I explain?
Instruction, argument alike were vain⁠—
I’ll show you reasons when you show me brain.

The Spirit of a Sponge

I dreamed one night that Stephen Massett died,
And for admission up at Heaven applied.
“Who are you?” asked St. Peter. Massett said:
“Jeems Pipes, of Pipesville.” Peter bowed his head,
Opened the gates and said: “I’m glad to know you,
And wish we’d something better, sir, to show you.”
“Don’t mention it,” said Stephen, looking bland,
And was about to enter, hat in hand,
When from a cloud below such fumes arose
As tickled tenderly his conscious nose.
He paused, replaced his hat upon his head,
Turned back and to the saintly warden said,
O’er his already sprouting wings: “I swear
I smell some broiling going on down there!”
So Massett’s paunch, attracted by the smell,
Followed his nose and found a place in Hell.


“Let John P. Irish rise!” the edict rang
As when Creation into being sprang!
Nature, not clearly understanding, tried
To make a bird that on the air could ride.
But naught could baffle the creative plan⁠—
Despite her efforts ’twas almost a man.
Yet he had risen⁠—to the bird a twin⁠—
Had she but fixed a wing upon his chin.

To E. S. Salomon

Who in a Memorial Day oration protested bitterly against decorating the graves of Confederate dead.

What! Salomon! such words from you,
Who call yourself a soldier? Well,
The Southern brother where he fell
Slept all your base oration through.

Alike to him⁠—he cannot know
Your praise or blame: as little harm
Your tongue can do him as your arm
A quarter-century ago.

The brave respect the brave. The brave
Respect the dead; but you⁠—you draw
That ancient blade, the ass’s jaw,
And shake it o’er a hero’s grave.

Are you not he who makes to-day
A merchandise of old renown
Which he persuades this easy town
He won in battle far away?

Nay, those the fallen who revile
Have ne’er before the living stood
And stoutly made their battle good
And greeted danger with a smile.

What if the dead whom still you hate
Were wrong? Are you so surely right?
We know the issue of the fight⁠—
The sword is but an advocate.

Men live and die, and other men
Arise with knowledges diverse:
What seemed a blessing seems a curse,
And Now is still at odds with Then.

The years go on, the old comes back
To mock the new⁠—beneath the sun.
Is nothing new; ideas run
Recurrent in an endless track.

What most we censure, men as wise
Have reverently practiced; nor
Will future wisdom fail to war
On principles we dearly prize.

We do not know⁠—we can but deem,
And he is loyalest and best
Who takes the light full on his breast
And follows it throughout the dream.

The broken light, the shadows wide⁠—
Behold the battle-field displayed!
God save the vanquished from the blade,
The victor from the victor’s pride!

If, Salomon, the blessed dew
That falls upon the Blue and Gray
Is powerless to wash away
The sin of differing from you.

Remember how the flood of years
Has rolled across the erring slain;
Remember, too, the cleansing rain
Of widows’ and of orphans’ tears.

The dead are dead⁠—let that atone:
And though with equal hand we strew
The blooms on saint and sinner too,
Yet God will know to choose his own.

The wretch, whate’er his life and lot,
Who does not love the harmless dead
With all his heart and all his head⁠—
May God forgive him⁠—I shall not.

When, Salomon, you come to quaff
The Darker Cup with meeker face,
I, loving you at last, shall trace
Upon your tomb this epitaph:

“Draw near, ye generous and brave⁠—
Kneel round this monument and weep
For one who tried in vain to keep
A flower from a soldier’s grave.”

Dennis Kearney

Your influence, my friend, has gathered head⁠—
To east and west its tides encroaching spread.
There’ll be, on all God’s foot-stool, when they meet,
No clean spot left for Him to set His feet.

Finis Aeternitatis

Strolling at sunset in my native land,
With fruits and flowers thick on either hand,
I crossed a Shadow flung athwart my way,
Emerging on a waste of rock and sand.

“The apples all are gone from here,” I said,
“The roses perished and their spirits fled.
I will go back.” A voice cried out: “The man
Is risen who eternally was dead!”

I turned and saw an angel standing there,
Newly descended from the heights of air.
Sweet-eyed compassion filled his face, his hands
A naked sword and golden trumpet bare.

“Nay, ’twas not death, the shadow that I crossed,”
I said. “Its chill was but a touch of frost.
It made me gasp, but quickly I came through,
With breath recovered ere it scarce was lost.”

’Twas the same land! Remembered mountains thrust
Grayed heads asky, and every dragging gust,
In ashen valleys where my sons had reaped,
Stirred in familiar river-beds the dust.

Some heights, where once the traveler was shown
The youngest and the proudest city known,
Lifted smooth ridges in the steely light⁠—
Bleak, desolate acclivities of stone.

Where I had worshiped at my father’s tomb,
Within a massive temple’s awful gloom,
A jackal slunk along the naked rock,
Affrighted by some prescience of doom.

Man’s vestiges were nowhere to be found,
Save one brass mausoleum on a mound
(I knew it well) spared by the artist Time
To emphasize the desolation round.

Into the stagnant sea the sullen sun
Sank behind bars of crimson, one by one.
“Eternity’s at hand!” I cried aloud.
“Eternity,” the angel said, “is done.

“For man is ages dead in every zone;
The angels all are dead but I alone;
The devils, too, are cold enough at last,
And God lies dead before the great white throne!

“ ’Tis foreordained that I bestride the shore
When all are gone (as Gabriel did before,
When I had throttled the last man alive)
And swear Eternity shall be no more.”

“O Azrael⁠—O Prince of Death, declare
Why conquered I the grave?” I cried. “What rare,
Conspicuous virtues won this boon for me?”
“You’ve been revived,” he said, “to hear me swear.”

“Then let me creep again beneath the grass,
And knock you at yon pompous tomb of brass.
If ears are what you want, Charles Crocker’s there⁠—
Betwixt the greatest ears, the greatest ass.”

He rapped, and while the hollow echoes rang,
Out at the door a curst hyena sprang
And fled! Said Azrael: “His soul’s escaped,”
And closed the brazen portal with a bang.

The Veteran

John Jackson, once a soldier bold,
Hath still a martial feeling;
So, when he sees a foe, behold!
He charges him⁠—with stealing.

He cares not how much ground to-day
He gives for men to doubt him;
He’s used to giving ground, they say,
Who lately fought with⁠—out him.

When, for the battle to be won,
His gallantry was needed,
They say each time a loaded gun
Went off⁠—so, likewise, he did.

And when discharged (for war’s a sport
So hot he had to leave it)
He made a very loud report,
But no one did believe it.

An “Exhibit”

Goldenson hanged! Well, Heaven forbid
That I should smile above him:
Though truth to tell, I never did
Exactly love him.

It can’t be wrong, though, to rejoice
That his unpleasing capers
Are ended. Silent is his voice
In all the papers.

No longer he’s a show: no more,
Bear-like, his den he’s walking.
No longer can he hold the floor
When I’d be talking.

The laws that govern jails are bad
If such displays are lawful.
The fate of the assassin’s sad,
But ours is awful!

What! shall a wretch condemned to die
In shame upon the gibbet
Be set before the public eye
As an “exhibit”?⁠—

His looks, his actions noted down,
His words, if light or solemn,
And all this hawked about the town⁠—
So much a column?

The press, of course, will publish news
However it may get it;
But blast the sheriff who’ll abuse
His powers to let it!

Nay, this is not ingratitude;
I’m no reporter, truly,
Nor yet an editor. I’m rude⁠—
Perhaps unruly⁠—

Because I burn with shame and rage
Beyond my power of telling
To see assassins in a cage
And keepers yelling.

“Walk up! Walk up!” the showman cries:
“Observe the lion’s poses,
His stormy mane, his glooming eyes.
His⁠—hold your noses!”

How long, O Lord, shall Law and Right
Be mocked for gain or glory,
And angels weep as they recite
The shameful story?

The Transmigrations of a Soul

What! Pixley, must I hear you call the roll
Of all the vices that infest your soul?
Was’t not enough that lately you did bawl
Your money-worship in the ears of all?
Still must you crack your brazen cheek to tell
That though a miser you’re a sot as well?
Still must I hear how low your taste has sunk⁠—
From getting money down to getting drunk?

Who worships money, damning all beside,
And shows his callous knees with pious pride,
Speaks with half-knowledge, for no man e’er scorns
His own possessions, be they coins or corns.
You’ve money, neighbor; had you gentle birth
You’d know, as now you never can, its worth.

You’ve money; learning is beyond your scope,
Deaf to your envy, stubborn to your hope.
But if upon your undeserving head
Science and letters had their glory shed;
If in the cavern of your skull the light
Of knowledge shone where now eternal night
Breeds the blind, poddy, vapor-fatted naughts
Of cerebration that you think are thoughts⁠—
Black bats in cold and dismal corners hung
That squeak and gibber when you move your tongue⁠—
You would not write, in Avarice’s defense,
A senseless eulogy on lack of sense,
Nor show your eagerness to sacrifice
All noble virtues to one loathsome vice.

You’ve money; if you’d manners too you’d shame
To boast your weakness or your baseness name.
Appraise the things you have, but measure not
The things denied to your unhappy lot.
He values manners lighter than a cork
Who combs his beard at table with a fork.
Hare to seek sin and tortoise to forsake,
The laws of taste condemn you to the stake
To expiate, where all the world may see,
The crime of growing old disgracefully.

Distinction, learning, birth and manners, too,
All that distinguishes a man from you,
Pray damn at will: all shining virtues gain
An added luster from a rogue’s disdain.
But spare the young that proselyting sin,
A toper’s apotheosis of gin.
If not our young, at least our pigs may claim
Exemption from the spectacle of shame!

Are you not he who lately out of shape
Blew a brass trumpet to denounce the grape?⁠—
Who led the brave teetotalers afield
And slew your leader underneath your shield?⁠—
Swore that no man should drink unless he flung
Himself across your body at the bung?
Who vowed if you’d the power you would fine
The Son of God for making water wine?

All trails to odium you tread and boast,
Yourself enamored of the dirtiest most.
One day to be a miser you aspire,
The next to wallow drunken in the mire;
The third, lo! you’re a meritorious liar!
Pray, in the catalogue of all your graces
Have theft and cowardice no honored places?

Yield thee, great Satan⁠—here’s a rival name
With all thy vices and but half thy shame!
Quick to the letter of the precept, quick
To the example of the elder Nick;
With as great talent as was e’er applied
To fool a teacher and to fog a guide;
With slack allegiance and boundless greed,
To paunch the profit of a traitor deed,
He aims to make thy glory all his own,
And crowd his master from the infernal throne!

Indictment on Evidence

Bruce Douglas, nephew to a Scottish Earl,
Sat in the City Prison, low in heart
And spirits. Round him lay the forms of men⁠—
Men of the people, of ignoble birth⁠—
Prone or supine in sleep; but sleep and he
Were out: the Douglas was too drunk for sleep.
And so he sat and moaned; and still his moan
Had all the cadences and stops of song⁠—
Recurrent swells and measured silences
Which sought the ear as ocean’s billows roll,
At even spaces and with matching speed,
One after one ashore. Wherefore uprose
An old gray constable who in the morn
And blossom of his life had courted fame
As horse-reporter for a public print,
And so was skilled in letters, and he spake,
There to the sergeant, saying: “Surely, now,
The man’s a poet. In his moan I hear
The pulsing and the passion of the sea⁠—
Hear the far beating of the waterfall,
Throbbing of noon-day insects in the grass⁠—
All rhythmic movements of the universe
Which poets echo in their thought and speech,
Even in their inarticulate complaints
Of pain. My life I’ll hazard that the man’s
A bard disguised to look a gentleman.”
So, bringing his effects, which had till then
Lain unconsidered⁠—from his pockets plucked
And tossed aside⁠—all curiously they
Explored the papers. Odes and odes there were,
And every ode in praise of some fair scene
In a fair land; and the fair land was this
Our California. From the snowy peaks
That glitter in the skies of Siskiyou,
Down to the golden margin where the land
Slips underneath the San Diegan bay;
And from the dim Sierra, far across
To where old Ocean bears upon his breast
The Mongol horde returning to its own,
Its native land and its dear household gods,
Bruce Douglas, nephew of a Scottish Earl,
Had sung the beauty of the Golden State!
So then the Clerk, splitting the Book of Doom,
Charged him therein with murder, arson, rape,
Theft, libel, mayhem and intent to leave
The State and so defraud his creditors⁠—
With vagrancy, extortion and assault
Felonious, obtaining cash by false
Pretenses⁠—with infanticide⁠—even him,
Bruce Douglas, nephew of a Scottish Earl.

To an Aspirant

What! you a Senator?⁠—you, Mike de Young?
Still reeking of the gutter whence you sprung?
Sir, if all Senators were such as you⁠—
Their hands so slender and so crimson too
(Shaped to the pocket for commercial work,
For literary, fitted to the dirk)⁠—
So black their hearts, so lily-white their livers⁠—
The toga’s touch would give a man the shivers!

At the White House

Among the notables one day that came
To see the President was one whose name
Was known from Puerto Rico to Luzon,
Although it wasn’t Smith nor even John.
Renowned in field and council too, for he
Had tilled the soil and been a school trustee.
Occasionally, just to pass the time,
He worked at patriotism and scowled at crime;
Went up and down the land denouncing those
Who loved him little as the country’s foes;
Predicted famine when they scorned his story,
And for the ensuing harvest claimed the glory.
His name indeed was famous, but because
My memory’s weak I know not what it was.

The President he came that day to see
Was as illustrious in his way as he.
His name a household word⁠—that is to say
Men damned him roundly to begin the day,
Deplored him in the fireside’s rosy light
And grunted disesteem throughout the night.
Not all men⁠—some, the sons of pious mothers,
Prayed for him daily as upon him others.
Sleek, snug, self-righteous, cunning as a rat,
A fish in fervor and in faith a cat,
Obscure by nature, he had ne’er been great
If Fortune had not kicked him into state.
His name? Go ask Posterity, not me⁠—
From words opprobrious my page is free.

So they were married⁠—no I mean they met;
For aught I know they are in session yet,
There in the White House, for each swore the place
Belonged to him by God’s abounding grace.
But, O, may He take measures to prevent
If both at once they would be President.

Tidings of Good

Old Nick from his place of last resort
Came up and looked the world over.
He saw how the grass of the good was short
And the wicked lived in clover.

And he gravely said: “This is all, all wrong,
And never by me intended.
If to me the power ever belong
I shall have this thing amended.”

He looked so solemn and good and wise
As he made this observation
That the men who heard him believed their eyes
Instead of his reputation.

So they bruited the matter about, and each
Reported the words as nearly
As memory served⁠—with additional speech
To bring out the meaning clearly.

The consequence was that none understood,
And the wildest rumors started
Of something intended to help the good
And injure the evil-hearted.

Then Robert Morrow was seen to smile
With a bright and lively joyance.
“A man,” said he, “that is free from guile
Will now be free from annoyance.

“The Featherstones doubtless will now increase
And multiply like the rabbits,
While jailers, deputy sheriffs, police,
And writers will form good habits.

“The widows more easily robbed will be,
And no juror will ever heed ’em,
But open his purse to my eloquent plea
For security, gain, or freedom.”

When Benson heard of the luck of the good
(He was eating his dinner) he muttered:
“It cannot help me, for ’tis understood
My bread is already buttered.

“My plats of surveys are all false, they say,
But that cannot greatly matter
To me, for I’ll tell the jurors that they
May lick, if they please, my platter.”

An Actor

Someone (’tis hardly new) has oddly said
The color of a trumpet’s blare is red;
And Joseph Emmett thinks the crimson shame
On woman’s cheek a trumpet-note of fame.
The more the red storm rises round her nose⁠—
The more her eyes averted seek her toes,
He fancies all the louder he can hear
The tube resounding in his spacious ear,
And, all his varied talents to exert,
Deepens his dullness to display his dirt.
And when the gallery’s indecent crowd,
And gentlemen below, with hisses loud,
In hot contention (these his art to crown,
And those his naked nastiness to drown)
Make such a din that cheeks erewhile aflame
Grow white and in their fear forget their shame,
With impudence imperial, sublime,
Unmoved, the patient actor bides his time,
Till storm and counter-storm are both allayed,
Like donkeys, each by t’other one outbrayed.
When all the place is silent as a mouse
One slow, suggestive gesture clears the house!

Famine’s Realm

To him in whom the love of Nature has
Imperfectly supplanted the desire
And dread necessity of food, your shore,
Fair Oakland, is a terror. Over all
Your sunny level, from Tamaletown
To where the Pestuary’s fragrant slime,
With dead dogs studded, bears its azure fleet,
Broods the still menace of starvation. Bones
Of men and women bleach along the ways
And pampered vultures sleep upon the trees.
It is a land of death, and Famine there
Holds sovereignty; though some there be her sway
Who challenge, and intrenched in larders live,
Drawing their sustentation from abroad.
But woe to him, the stranger! He shall die
As die the early righteous in the bud
And promise of their prime. He, venturesome
To penetrate the wilds rectangular
Of grass-grown ways luxuriant of blooms,
Frequented of the bee and of the blithe,
Bold squirrel, strays with heedless feet afar
From human habitation and is lost
In mid-Broadway. There hunger seizes him,
And (careless man! deeming God’s providence
Extends so far) he has not wherewithal
To bate its urgency. Then, lo! appears
A restaurant⁠—mealery⁠—a place
Where poison battles famine, and the two,
Like fish-hawks warring in the upper sky
For that which one has taken from the deep,
Manage between them to dispatch the prey.
He enters and leaves hope behind. There ends
His history. Anon his bones, clean-picked
By buzzards (with the bones himself had picked,
Incautious) line the highway. O, my friends,
Of all felonious and deadlywise
Devices of the Enemy of Souls,
Planted along the ways of life to snare
Man’s mortal and immortal part alike,
The Oakland restaurant is chief. It lives
That man may die. It flourishes that life
May wither. Its foundation stones repose
On human hearts and hopes. I’ve seen in it
Crabs stewed in milk and salad offered up
With dressing so unholily compound
That it included flour and sugar! Yea,
I’ve eaten dog there!⁠—dog, as I’m a man,
Dog seethed in sewage of the town! No more⁠—
Thy hand, Dyspepsia, assumes the pen
And scrawls a tortured “Finis” on the page.

The Mackaiad

Mackay’s hot wrath to Bonynge, direful spring
Of blows unnumbered, heavenly goddess, sing⁠—
That wrath which hurled to Hellman’s office floor
Two heroes, mutually smeared with gore,
Whose hair in handfuls marked the dire debate,
And riven coat-tails testified their hate.
Sing, muse, what first their indignation fired,
What words augmented it, by whom inspired.

First, the great Bonynge comes upon the scene
And asks the favor of the British Queen.
Suppliant he stands and urges all his claim:
His wealth, his portly person and his name,
His habitation in the setting sun,
As child of nature; and his suit he won.
No more the Sovereign, wearied with his plea,
From slumber’s chain her faculties can free.
Low and more low the royal eyelids creep,
She gives the assenting nod and falls asleep.
Straightway the Bonynges all invade the Court
And telegraph the news to every port.
Beneath the seas, red-hot, the tidings fly,
The cables crinkle and the fishes fry!
The world, awaking like a startled bat,
Exclaims: “A Bonynge? What the devil’s that?”
Mackay, meanwhile, to envy all attent,
Untaught to spare, unable to relent,
Walks in our town on needles and on pins,
And in a mean, revengeful spirit⁠—grins!

Sing, muse, what next to break the peace occurred⁠—
What act uncivil, what unfriendly word?
The god of Bosh ascending from his pool,
Where since creation he has played the fool,
Clove the blue slush, as other gods the sky,
And, waiting but a moment’s space to dry,
Touched Bonynge with his finger-tip. “O son,”
He said, “alike of nature and a gun,
Knowest not Mackay’s insufferable sin?
Hast thou not heard that he doth stand and grin?
Arise! assert thy manhood, and attest
The uncommercial spirit in thy breast.
Avenge thine honor, for by Jove I swear
Thou shalt not else be my peculiar care!”
He spake, and ere his worshiper could kneel
Had dived into his slush pool, head and heel.
Full of the god and to revenges nerved,
And conscious of a will that never swerved,
Bonynge set sail: our world beyond the wave
As gladly took him as the other gave.
New York received him, but a shudder ran
Through all the western coast, which knew the man;
And science said that the seismic agitation
Was due to mutable equilibration.

O goddess, sing what Bonynge next essayed.
Did he unscabbard the avenging blade,
The long spear brandish and porrect the shield,
Havoc the town and devastate the field?
His sacred thirst for blood did he allay
By halving the unfortunate Mackay?
Small were the profit and the joy to him
To hew a base-born person, limb from limb.
Let vulgar souls to low revenge incline,
That of diviner spirits is divine.
Bonynge at noonday stood in public places
And (with regard to the Mackays) made faces!
Before those formidable frowns and scowls
The dogs fled, tail-tucked, with affrighted howls,
And horses, terrified, with flying feet
O’erthrew the apple-stands along the street,
Involving the metropolis in vast
Financial ruin! Men themselves, aghast,
Retreated east and west and north and south
Before the menace of that twisted mouth,
Till Jove, in answer to their prayers, sent Night
To veil the dreadful visage from their sight!

Such were the causes of the horrid strife⁠—
The mother-wrongs which nourished it to life.
O, for a quill from an archangel’s wing!
O, for a voice that’s adequate to sing
The splendor and the terror of the fray,
The scattered hair, the coat-tails all astray,
The parted collars and the gouts of gore
Reeking and smoking on the banker’s floor,
The interlocking limbs, embraces dire,
Revolving bodies and deranged attire!

Vain, vain the trial: ’tis vouchsafed to none
To sing two millionaires rolled into one!
My hand and pen their offices refuse,
And hoarse and hoarser grows the weary muse.
Alone remains, to tell of the event,
Abandoned, lost and variously rent,
The Bonynge nethermost habiliment.

A Song in Praise

Hail, blessed Blunder! golden idol, hail!⁠—
Clay-footed deity of all who fail.
Celestial image, let thy glory shine,
Thy feet concealing, but a lamp to mine.
Let me, at seasons opportune and fit,
By turns adore thee and by turns commit.
In thy high service let me ever be
(Yet never serve thee as my critics me)
Happy and fallible, content to feel
I blunder chiefly when to thee I kneel.
But best felicity is his thy praise
Who utters unaware in works and ways⁠—
Who laborare est orare proves,
And feels thy suasion wheresoe’er he moves,
Serving thy purpose, not thine altar, still,
And working, for he thinks it his, thy will.
If such a life with blessings be not fraught,
I envy Peter Robertson for naught.

A Poet’s Father

Welcker, I’m told, can boast a father great
And honored in the service of the State.
Public Instruction all his mind employs⁠—
He guides its methods and its wage enjoys.
Prime Pedagogue, imperious and grand,
He waves his ferule o’er a studious land
Where humming youths, intent upon the page,
Thirsting for knowledge with a noble rage,
Drink dry the whole Pierian spring and ask
To slake their fervor at his private flask.
Arrested by the terror of his frown,
The vaulting spit-ball drops untimely down;
The fly impaled on the tormenting pin
Stills in his awful glance its dizzy din;
Beneath that stern regard the chewing-gum
Which writhed and squeaked between the teeth is dumb;
Obedient to his will the dunce-cap flies
To perch upon the brows of the unwise;
The supple switch forsakes the parent wood
To settle where ’twill do the greatest good,
Puissant still, as when of old it strove
With Solomon for spitting on the stove.
Learned Professor, variously great,
Guide, guardian, instructor of the State⁠—
Quick to discern and zealous to correct
The faults which mar the public intellect
From where of Siskiyou the northern bound
Is frozen eternal to the sunless ground
To where in San Diego’s torrid clime
The swarthy Greaser swelters in his grime⁠—
Beneath your stupid nose can you not see
The dunce whom once you dandled on your knee?
O mighty master of a thousand schools,
Stop teaching wisdom, or stop breeding fools.

A Coward

When Marriot, distressed by an “attack,”
Has the strange insolence to answer back
He hides behind a name that is a lie,
And out of shadow falters his reply.
God knows him, though⁠—identified alike
By hardihood to rise and fear to strike,
And fitly to rebuke his sins decrees,
That, hide from others with what care he please,
Night shan’t be black enough nor earth so wide
That from himself himself can ever hide!
Hard fate indeed to feel at every breath
His burden of identity till death!⁠—
No moment’s respite from the immortal load,
To think himself a serpent or a toad,
Or dream, with a divine, ecstatic glow,
He’s long been dead and canonized a crow!

To My Liars

Attend, mine enemies of all degrees,
From sandlot orators and other fleas
To fallen gentlemen and rising louts
Who babble slander at your drinking bouts,
And, filled with unfamiliar wine, begin
Lies drowned, ere born, in more congenial gin.
But most attend, ye persons of the press
Who live (though why, yourselves alone can guess)
In hope deferred, ambitious still to shine
By hating me at half a cent a line⁠—
Like drones among the bees of brighter wing,
Sunless to shine and impotent to sting.
To estimate in easy verse I’ll try
The controversial value of a lie.
So lend your ears⁠—God knows you have enough!⁠—
I mean to teach, and if I can’t I’ll cuff.

A lie is wicked, so the priests declare;
But that to us is neither here nor there.
’Tis worse than wicked, it is vulgar too;
N’importe⁠—with that we’ve nothing here to do.
If ’twere artistic I would lie till death,
And shape a falsehood with my latest breath,
Parrhasius never more did pity lack,
The while his model writhed upon the rack,
Than I should for my adversary’s pain,
(Who, stabbed with fibs again and yet again,
Would vainly seek to move my stubborn heart)
If slander were, and wit were not, an art.
The ill-bred and illiterate can lie
As fast as you, and faster far than I.
Shall I compete, then, in a strife accurst
Where Allen Forman is an easy first,
And where the second prize is rightly flung
To Charley Shortridge or to Mike de Young?

In mental combat but a single end
Inspires the formidable to contend.
Not by the raw recruit’s ambition fired,
By whom foul blows, though harmless, are admired;
Not by the coward’s zeal, who, on his knee
Behind the bole of his protecting tree,
So curves his musket that the bark it fits,
And, firing, blows the weapon into bits;
But with the noble aim of one whose heart
Values his foeman for he loves his art
The veteran debater moves afield,
Untaught to libel as untaught to yield.
Dear foeman mine, I’ve but this end in view⁠—
That to prevent which most you wish to do.
What, then, are you most eager to be at?
To hate me? Nay, I’ll help you, sir, at that.
This only passion does your soul inspire:
You wish to scorn me. Sir, you shall admire.

’Tis not enough my neighbors that you school
In the belief that I’m a rogue or fool;
That small advantage you would gladly trade
For what one moment would yourself persuade.
Write, then, your largest and your longest lie:
You shan’t believe it, howsoe’er you try.
No falsehood you can tell, no evil do,
Shall turn me from the truth to injure you.
So all your war is barren of effect;
I find my victory in your respect.
What profit have you if the world you set
Against me? For the world will soon forget
It thought me this or that; but I’ll retain
A vivid picture of your moral stain,
And cherish till my memory expire
The sweet, soft consciousness that you’re a liar
Is it your triumph, then, to prove that you
Will do the thing that I would scorn to do?
God grant that I forever be exempt
From such advantage as my foe’s contempt.

“Phil” Crimmins

Still as he climbed into the public view
His charms of person more apparent grew,
Till the pleased world that watched his airy grace
Saw nothing of him but his nether face⁠—
Forgot his follies with his head’s retreat,
And blessed his virtues as it viewed their seat.

On the Scales

The proverb hath it, Waterman:
“There never is great loss without
Some little gain.” ’Tis Nature’s plan
Of restitution, I’ve no doubt;
As sometimes a repentant thief
Restores, for conscience’s relief,
Some ten percent, or thereabout,
Of all the loot with which he ran.

Dear Governor, when you were ill
You lost, they say, some twenty pound;
But, muse and ponder as I will.
And cast my searching thoughts around,
I find in that great loss no gain⁠—
Unless indeed in heart and brain
You suffered it; but I’ll be bound
That they are unaffected still.

For still you’re foolish and absurd,
And still malicious and perverse
As ever; and in truth I’ve heard
That since recovering you’re worse.
The inference, I think, is fair:
You lost not what we best could spare:
Your character remains to curse
The State until you’re sepulchred.

’Tis true there’s measurably less
Of you to pack⁠—and you’re a load⁠—
But chiefly that concerns, I guess,
The patient beast that you bestrode
When, booted, spurred and gloved and all,
You led Mark Boruck from the stall,
To ride him on that rocky road,
Political unrighteousness.

In gain to Boruck, though, we scan
A loss to every honest soul,
It aids the weekly Harridan,
His thoroughbred-and-butter foal.
To end: the weight whose loss we mourn,
From Waterman by illness torn,
Was mostly water⁠—it were droll
To learn he’d twenty pounds of man!

Codex Honoris

Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, he swore:
“Dat Solomon Martin⁠—I’ll haf his gore!”
Solomon Martin, of Oakland, he said:
“Of Shacob Shacobs der bleed I vill shed!”
So they met, with seconds and surgeon at call,
And fought with pistol and powder and⁠—all
Was done in good faith⁠—as before I said,
They fought with pistol and powder and⁠—shed
Tears, O my friends, for each other they marred
Fighting with pistol and powder and lard!
For the lead had been stolen away, every trace,
And Christian hog-product supplied its place.
Then the shade of Moses indignant arose:
“Quvicker dan lighdnings go vosh yer glose!”
Jacob Jacobs, of Oakland, they say,
Applied for a pension the following day.
Solomon Martin, of Oakland, I hear,
Will call himself Colonel for many a year.

To W. H. L. B.

Refrain, dull orator, from speaking out,
For silence deepens when you raise the shout;
But when you hold your tongue we hear, at least,
Your noise in mastering that little beast.


Behold! the days of miracle at last
Return⁠—if ever they were truly past:
From sinful creditors’ unholy greed
The church called Calvary at last is freed⁠—
So called for there the Savior’s crucified,
Roberts and Carmany on either side.

The circling contribution-box no more
Provokes the nod and simulated snore;
No more the Lottery, no more the Fair,
Lures the reluctant dollar from its lair,
Nor Ladies’ Lunches at a bit a bite
Destroy the health yet spare the appetite,
While thrifty sisters o’er the cauldron stoop
To serve their God with zeal, their friends with soup,
And all the brethren mendicate the earth
With viewless placards: “We’ve been so from birth!”

Sure of his wage, the pastor now can lend
His whole attention to his latter end,
Remarking with a martyr’s prescient thrill
The Hemp maturing on the cheerless Hill.
The holy brethren, lifting pious palms,
Pour out their gratitude in prayer and psalms,
Chant De Profundis, meaning “out of debt,”
And dance like mad⁠—or would if they were let.

Deeply disguised (a deacon newly dead
Supplied the means) Jack Satan holds his head
As high as any and as loudly sings
His jubilate till each rafter rings.
“Rejoice, ye ever faithful,” bellows he,
“The debt is lifted and the temple free!”
Then says, aside, with gentle cachinnation:
“I have a mortgage on the congregation.”


There isn’t a man living who does not have at least a sneaking reverence for a horse-shoe.
Evening Post

Thus the poor ass whose appetite has ne’er
Known than the thistle any sweeter fare
Thinks all the world eats thistles. Thus the clown,
The wit and Mentor of the country town,
Grins through the collar of a horse and thinks
Others for pleasure do as he for drinks,
Though secretly, because unwilling still
In public to attest their lack of skill.
Each dunce whose life and mind all follies mar
Believes as he is all men living are⁠—
His vices theirs, their understandings his;
Naught that he knows not, all he fancies, is,
How odd that any mind such stuff should boast!
How natural to write it in the Post!


The friends who stood about my bed
Looked down upon my face and said:
“God’s will be done⁠—the fellow’s dead.”

When from my body I was free
I straightway felt myself, ah me!
Sink downward to the life to be.

Full twenty centuries I fell,
And then alighted. “Here you dwell
For aye,” a Voice cried⁠—“this is Hell!”

A landscape lay about my feet,
Where trees were green and flowers sweet.
The climate was devoid of heat.

The sun looked down with gentle beam
Upon the bosom of the stream,
Nor saw I any sign of steam.

The waters by the sky were tinged,
The hills with light and color fringed.
Birds warbled on the wing unsinged.

“Ah, no, this is not Hell,” I cried;
“The preachers ne’er so greatly lied,
This is Earth’s spirit glorified!

“Good souls do not in Hades dwell,
And, look, there’s John P. Irish!” “Well,”
The Voice said, “that’s what makes it Hell.”

By False Pretenses

John S. Hittell, whose sovereign genius wields
The quill his tributary body yields;
The author of an opera⁠—that is,
All but the music and libretto’s his:
A work renowned, whose formidable name,
Linked with his own, repels the assault of fame
From the high vantage of a dusty shelf,
Secure from all the world except himself;⁠—
Who told the tale of “Culture” in a screed
That all might understand if all would read;⁠—
Master of poesy and lord of prose,
Dowered, like a setter, with a double nose;
That one for Erato, for Clio this;
He flushes both⁠—not his fault if we miss;⁠—
Judge of the painter’s art, who’ll straight proclaim
The hue of any color you can name,
And knows a painting with a canvas back
Distinguished from a duck by the duck’s quack;⁠—
This thinker and philosopher, whose work
Is famous from Commercial street to Turk,
Has now a fortune, of his pen the meed.
A woman left it him who could not read,
And so went down to death’s eternal night
Sweetly unconscious that the wretch could write.

Lucifer of the Torch

O Reverend Ravlin, once with sounding lung
You shook the bloody banner of your tongue,
Urged all the fiery boycotters afield
And swore you’d rather see them die than yield.
Alas, how brief the time, how great the change!⁠—
Your dogs of war are ailing all of mange;
The loose leash dangles from your finger-tips,
But the loud “havoc” dies upon your lips.
No spirit animates your feeble clay⁠—
You’d rather yield than even run away.
In vain McGlashan labors to inspire
Your pallid nostril with his breath of fire:
The light of battle’s faded from your face⁠—
You keep the peace, John Chinaman his place.
O Ravlin, what cold water, thrown by whom,
Upon the kindling Boycott’s ruddy bloom,
Has slaked your parching blood-thirst and allayed
The flash and shimmer of your lingual blade?
Your salary⁠—your salary’s unpaid!
In the old days, when Christ with scourges drave
The Ravlins headlong from the Temple’s nave,
Each bore upon his pelt the mark divine⁠—
The Boycott’s red authenticating sign.
Birth-marked forever in surviving hurts,
Glowing and smarting underneath their shirts,
Successive Ravlins have revenged their shame
By blowing every coal and flinging flame.
And you, the latest (may you be the last!)
Endorsed with that hereditary, vast
And monstrous rubric, would the feud prolong,
Save that cupidity forbids the wrong.
In strife you preferably pass your days⁠—
But brawl no moment longer than it pays.
By shouting when no more you can incite
The dogs to put the timid sheep to flight
To load, for you, the brambles with their fleece,
You cackle concord to congenial geese,
Put pinches of goodwill upon their tails
And pluck them with a touch that never fails.

“The Whirligig of Time”

Dr. Jewell speaks of Balaam
And his vices, to assail ’em.
Ancient enmities how cruel!⁠—
Balaam cudgeled once a Jewell.

A Railroad Lackey

Ben Truman, you’re a genius and can write,
Though one would not suspect it from your looks.
You lack that certain spareness which is quite
Distinctive of the persons who make books.
You show the workmanship of Stanford’s cooks
About the region of the appetite,
Where geniuses are singularly slight.
Your friends the Chinamen are understood,
Indeed, to speak of you as “belly good.”

Still, you can write⁠—spell, too, I understand⁠—
Though how two such accomplishments can go,
Like sentimental schoolgirls, hand in hand
Is more than ever I can hope to know.
To have one talent good enough to show
Has always been sufficient to command
The veneration of the brilliant band
Of railroad scholars, who themselves, indeed,
Although they cannot write, can mostly read.

There’s Towne, with Fillmore, Goodman and Steve Gage
Ned Curtis of Napoleonic face,
Who used to dash his name on glory’s page,
“A. M.” appended to denote his place
Among the learned. Now the last faint trace
Of Nap, is all obliterate with age,
And Ned’s degree less precious than his wage.
He says: “I done it,” with his every breath.
“Thou canst not say I did it,” says Macbeth.

Good land! how I run on! I quite forgot
Whom this was meant to be about; for when
I think upon that odd, unearthly lot⁠—
Not quite Creed Haymonds, yet not wholly men⁠—
I’m dominated by my rebel pen
That, like the stubborn bird from which ’twas got,
Goes waddling forward if I will or not.
To leave your comrades, Ben, I’m now content:
I’ll meet them later if I don’t repent.

You’ve writ a letter, I observe⁠—nay, more,
You’ve published it⁠—to say how good you think
The coolies, and invite them to come o’er
In thicker quantity. Perhaps you drink
No corporation’s wine, but love its ink;
Or when you signed away your soul and swore
On railrogue battle-fields to shed your gore
You mentally reserved the right to shed
The raiment of your character instead.

You’re naked, anyhow: unragged you stand
In frank and stark simplicity of shame.
And here upon your flank, in letters grand,
The iron has marked you with your owner’s name⁠—
Needless, for none would steal and none reclaim.
But “£eland $tanford” is a pretty brand,
Wrought by an artist with a cunning hand.
But come⁠—this naked unreserve is flat:
Don your habiliment⁠—you’re fat, you’re fat!

The Legatee

In fair San Francisco a good man did dwell,
And he wrote out a will, for he didn’t feel well.
Said he: “It is proper, when making a gift,
To stimulate virtue by comforting thrift.”

So he left all his property, legal and straight,
To “the cursedest rascal in all of the State.”
But the name he refused to insert, for, said he:
“Let each man consider himself legatee.”

In due course of time that philanthropist died,
And all San Francisco, and Oakland beside⁠—
Save only the lawyers⁠—came each with his claim,
The lawyers preferring to manage the same.

The cases were tried in Department Thirteen;
Judge Murphy presided, sedate and serene,
But couldn’t quite specify, legal and straight,
The cursedest rascal in all of the State.

And so he remarked to them, little and big⁠—
To claimants: “You skip!” and to lawyers: “You dig!”
They tumbled, tumultuous, out of his court
And left him victorious, holding the fort.

’Twas then that he said: “It is plain to my mind
This property’s ownerless⁠—how can I find
The cursedest rascal in all of the State?”
So he took it himself, which was legal and straight.

“Died of a Rose”

A reporter he was, and he wrote, wrote he:
“The grave was covered as thick as could be
With floral tributes”⁠—which reading,
The editor man he said, he did so:
“For ‘floral tributes’ he’s got for to go,
For I hold the same misleading.”
Then he called him in and he pointed sweet
To a blooming garden across the street,
Inquiring: “What’s them a-growing?”
The reporter chap said: “Why, where’s your eyes?
Them’s floral tributes!” “Arise, arise,”
The editor said, “and be going.”

A Literary Hangman

Beneath his coat of dirt great Neilson loves
To hide the avenging rope.
He handles all he touches without gloves,
Excepting soap.

At the Eleventh Hour

As through the blue expanse he skims
On joyous wings, the late
Frank Hutchings overtakes Miss Sims,
Both bound for Heaven’s high gate.

In life they loved and (God knows why
A lover so should sue)
He slew her, on the gallows high
Died pious⁠—and they flew.

Her pinions were bedraggled, soiled
And torn as by a gale,
While his were bright⁠—all freshly oiled
The feathers of his tail.

Her visage, too, was stained and worn
And menacing and grim;
His sweet and mild⁠—you would have sworn
That she had murdered him.

When they’d arrived before the gate
He said to her: “My dear,
’Tis hard once more to separate,
But you can’t enter here.

“For you, unluckily, were sent
So quickly to the grave
You had no notice to repent,
Nor time your soul to save.”

“ ’Tis true,” said she, “and I should wail
In Hell even now, but I
Lingered about the county jail
To see a Christian die.”

A Controversialist

I’ve sometimes wished that Ingersoll were wise
To hold his tongue, nor rail against the skies;
For when he’s made a point some pious dunce
Like Bartlett of the Bulletin “replies.”

I brandish no iconoclastic fist,
Nor enter the debate an atheist;
But when they say there is a God I ask
Why Bartlett, then, is suffered to exist.

Even infidels that logic might resent,
Saying: “There’s no place for his punishment
That’s worse than earth.” But humbly I submit
That he’s himself a hell wherever sent.


High Lord of Liars, Senex, unto thee
Let meaner mortals bend the subject knee!
Thine is mendacity’s imperial crown,
Alike by genius, action and renown.
No man, since words could set a cheek aflame
E’er lied so greatly with so little shame!
O bad old man, must thy remaining years
Be passed in leading idiots by their ears⁠—
Thine own (which Justice, if she ruled the roast
Would fasten to the penitential post)
Still wagging sympathetically⁠—hung
On the same rocking-bar that bears thy tongue?

Thou dog of darkness, dost thou hope to stay
Time’s dread advance till thou hast had thy day?
Dost think the Strangler will release his hold
Because, forsooth, some fibs remain untold?
No, no⁠—beneath thy multiplying load
Of years thou canst not tarry on the road
To dabble in the blood thy leaden feet
Have pressed from bosoms that have ceased to beat.

Tell to thyself whatever lies thou wilt,
Catch as thou canst at pennies got by guilt⁠—
Straight down to death this blessed year thou’lt sink,
Thy life washed out as with a wave of ink.
But if this prophecy be not fulfilled,
And thou who killest patience be not killed;
If age assail in vain and vice attack
Only by folly to be beaten back;
Yet Nature can this consolation give:
The rogues who die not are condemned to live!

The Retrospective Bird

His caw is a cackle, his eye is dim,
And he mopes all day on the lowest limb;
Not a word says he, but he snaps his bill
And twitches his palsied head, as a quill,
The ultimate plume of his pride and hope,
Quits his now featherless nose-o’-the-Pope,
Leaving that eminence brown and bare,
Exposed to the Prince of the Power of the Air.
And he sits and he thinks: “I’m an old, old man,
Mateless and chickless, the last of my clan,
But I’d give the half of the days gone by
To perch once more on the branches high,
And hear my great-grand-daddy’s comical croaks
In authorized versions of Bulletin jokes.”

The Oakland Dog

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—
They 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.

The Unfallen Brave

Not all in sorrow and in tears,
To pay of gratitude’s arrears
The yearly sum⁠—
Not prompted, wholly by the pride
Of those for whom their friends have died,
To-day we come.

Another aim we have in view
Than for the buried boys in blue
To drop a tear:
Memorial Day revives the chin
Of Barnes, and Salomon chimes in⁠—
That’s why we’re here.

And when in after ages they
Shall pass, like mortal men, away,
Their war-song sung⁠—
When Fame shall tell the tale anew
Of how intrepidly they drew
The deadly tongue⁠—

Then cull white lilies for the graves
Of Loyalty’s loquacious braves,
And roses red.
Those represent their livers, these
The blood that in unmeasured seas
They did not shed.

A Celebrated Case

Way down in the Boom Belt lived Mrs. Roselle;
A person named Petrie, he lived there as well;
But Mr. Roselle he resided away⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.

Once Mrs. Roselle in her room was alone:
The flesh of her flesh and the bone of her bone
Neglected the wife of his bosom to woo⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.

Then Petrie, her lover, appeared at the door,
Remarking: “My dear; I don’t love you no more.”
“That’s awfully rough,” said the lady, “on me⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iee.”

“Come in, Mr. Petrie,” she added, “pray do:
Although you don’t love me no more, I love you.
Sit down while I spray you with vitriol now⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iow.”

Said Petrie: “That liquid I know won’t agree
With my beauty, and then you’ll no longer love me;
So spray and be”⁠—O, what a word he did say!⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.

She deluged his head and continued to pour
Till his bonny blue eyes, like his love, were no more.
It was seldom he got such a hearty shampoo⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.

Then Petrie he rose and said: “Mrs. Roselle,
I have an engagement and bid you farewell.”
“You see,” she began to explain⁠—but not he!⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iee.

The Sheriff he came and he offered his arm,
Saying, “Sorry I am for disturbin’ you, marm,
But business is business.” Said she, “So they say⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iay.”

The Judge on the bench he looked awfully stern;
The District Attorney began to attorn;
The witnesses lied and the lawyers⁠—O my!⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iyi.

The chap that defended her said: “It’s our claim
That he loved us no longer and told us the same.
What else than we did could we decently do?⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.”

The District Attorney, sarcastic, replied:
“We loved you no longer⁠—that can’t be denied.
Not having no eyes we may dote on you now⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral iow.”

The prisoner wept to entoken her fears;
The sockets of Petrie were flooded with tears.
O heaven-born Sympathy, bully for you!⁠—
Sing tooral iooral iooral ioo.

Four jurors considered the prisoner mad,
And four thought her victim uncommonly bad,
And four that the acid was “all in his eye”⁠—
Sing rum tiddy iddity iddity hi.


For Inscription on a Sword Presented to Colonel Cutting of the National Guard.

I am for Cutting. I’m a blade
Designed for use at dress parade.
My gleaming length, when I display
Peace rules the land with gentle sway;
But when the war-dogs bare their teeth
Go seek me in the modest sheath.
I am for Cutting. Not for me
The task of setting nations free;
Let soulless blades take human life,
My softer metal shuns the strife.
The annual review is mine,
When gorgeous shopmen sweat and shine,
And Biddy, tip-toe on the pave,
Adores the cobble-trotting brave.
I am for Cutting. ’Tis not mine
To hew amain the hostile line;
Not mine all pitiless to spread
The plain with tumuli of dead.
My grander duty lies afar
From haunts of the insane hussar
Where charging horse and struggling foot
Are grimed alike with cannon-soot.
When Loveliness and Valor meet
Beneath the trees to dance, and eat,
And sing, and much beside, behold
My golden glories all unfold!
There formidably are displayed
The useful horrors of my blade.
In time of feast and dance and ballad,
I am for cutting chicken salad.

A Retort

As vicious women think all men are knaves,
And shrew-bound gentlemen discourse of slaves;
As reeling drunkards judge the world unsteady,
And idlers swear employers ne’er get ready⁠—
Thieves that the constable stole all they had,
The mad that all except themselves are mad;
So, in another’s clear escutcheon shown,
Barnes rails at stains reflected from his own;
Prates of “docility,” nor feels the dark
Ring round his neck⁠—the Ralston collar mark.
Back, man, to studies interrupted once,
Ere yet the rogue had merged into the dunce⁠—
Back, back to Yale! and, grown with years discreet,
The course a virgin’s lust cut short, complete.
Go drink again at the Pierian pool,
And learn at least better to play the fool.
No longer scorn the draught, although the font
Unlike Pactolus, waters not Belmont.

A Vision of Resurrection

I had a dream. The habitable earth⁠—
Its continents and islands⁠—all was bare
Of cities and of forests. Naught remained
Of its old aspect, and I only knew
(As men know things in dreams, unknowing how)
That this was earth and that all men were dead.
On every side I saw the barren land,
Even to the distant sky’s inclosing blue,
Thick-pitted all with graves; and all the graves
Save one were open⁠—not as newly dug,
But rather as by some internal force
Riven for egress. Tombs of stone were split
And wide agape, and in their iron decay
The massive mausoleums stood in halves.
With mildewed linen all the ground was white.
Discarded shrouds upon memorial stones
Hung without motion in the soulless air.
While greatly marveling how this should be
I heard, or fancied that I heard, a voice,
Low like an angel’s, delicately strong,
And sweet as music.

“Spirit,” it said, “behold
The burial place of universal Man!
A million years have rolled away since here
His sheeted multitudes (save only some
Whose dark misdeeds required a separate
And individual arraigning) rose
To judgment at the trumpet’s summoning
And passed into the sky for their award,
Leaving behind these perishable things
Which yet, preserved by miracle, endure
Till all are up. Then they and all of earth,
Rock-hearted mountain and storm-breasted sea,
River and wilderness and sites of dead
And vanished capitals of men, shall spring
To flame, and naught shall be forevermore!
When all are risen that wonder will occur.
’Twas but ten centuries ago the last
But one came forth⁠—a soul so black with sin,
Against whose name so many crimes were set
That only now his trial is at end.
But one remains.”

Straight, as the voice was stilled⁠—
That single rounded mound cracked lengthliwise
And one came forth in grave-clothes. For a space
He stood and gazed about him with a smile
Superior; then laying off his shroud
Disclosed his two attenuated legs
Which, like parentheses, bent outwardly
As by the weight of saintliness above,
And so sprang upward and was lost to view.
Noting his headstone overthrown, I read:
“Sacred to memory of George K. Fitch,
Deacon and Editor⁠—a holy man
Who fell asleep in Jesus, full of years
And blessedness. The dead in Christ rise first.”

Master of Three Arts

Your various talents, Goldenson, command
Respect: you are a poet and can draw.
It is a pity that your gifted hand
Should ever have been raised against the law.
If you had drawn no pistol, but a picture,
You would have saved your throttle from a stricture.

About your poetry I’m not so sure:
’Tis certain we have much that’s quite as bad,
Whose hardy writers have not to endure
The hangman’s fondling. It is said they’re mad:
Though lately Mr. Brooks (I mean the poet)
Looked well, and if demented didn’t show it.

Well, Goldenson, I am a poet, too⁠—
Taught by the muses how to smite the harp
And lift the tuneful voice, although, like you
And Brooks, I sometimes flat and sometimes sharp.
But let me say, with no desire to taunt you,
I never murder even the girls I want to.

I hold it one of the poetic laws
To sing of life, not take it. I have shown
A high regard for human life because
I have such trouble to support my own.
And you⁠—well, you’ll find trouble soon in blowing
Your private coal to keep it red and glowing.

I fancy now I see you at the Gate
Approach St. Peter, crawling on your belly.
You cry: “Good sir, take pity on my state⁠—
Forgive the murderer of Mamie Kelly!”
And Peter says: “O, that’s all right⁠—but, mister,
You scribbled rhymes. In Hell I’ll make you blister!”


So, in the Sunday papers you, Del Mar,
Damn, all great Englishmen in English speech?
I am no Englishman, but in my reach
A rogue shall never rail where heroes are.

You are the man, if I mistake you not,
Who lately with a supplicating twitch
Plucked at the pockets of the London rich,
And paid your share-engraver all you got.

Because that you have greatly lied, because
You libel nations, and because no hand
Of officer is raised to bid you stand,
And falsehood is unpunished of the laws,

I stand here in a public place to mark
With level finger where you part the crowd⁠—
I stand to name you and to cry aloud:
“Behold mendacity’s great hierarch!”

A Society Leader

“The Social World”! O what a world it is⁠—
Where full-grown men cut capers in the German,
Cotillion, waltz, or what you will, and whizz
And spin and hop and sprawl about like mermen!
I wonder if our future Grant or Sherman,
As these youths pass their time, is passing his⁠—
If eagles ever come from painted eggs,
Or deeds of arms succeed to deeds of legs.

I know they tell us about Waterloo:
How, “foremost fighting,” fell the evening’s dancers.
I don’t believe it: I regard it true
That soldiers who are skillful in the Lancers
Less often die of cannon than of cancers.
Moreover, I am half-persuaded, too,
That David when he danced before the Ark
Had the reporter’s word to keep it dark.

Ed Greenway, you fatigue. Your hateful name
Like maiden’s curls, is in the papers daily.
You think it, doubtless, honorable fame,
And contemplate the cheap distinction gaily,
As does the monkey the blue-painted tail he
Believes becoming to him. ’Tis the same
With men as other monkeys: all their souls
Crave eminence on any kind of poles.

But cynics (barking tribe!) are all agreed
That monkeys upon poles performing capers
Are not exalted, they are only “treed.”
A glory that is kindled by the papers
Is transient as the phosphorescent vapors
That shine in graveyards and are seen, indeed,
But while the bodies that supply the gas
Are turning into weeds to feed an ass.

One can but wonder sometimes how it feels
To be an ass⁠—a beast we beat condignly
Because, like yours, his life is in his heels
And he is prone to use them unbenignly.
The ladies (bless them!) say you dance divinely.
I like St. Vitus better, though, who deals
His feet about him with a grace more just,
And hops, not for he will, but for he must.

Doubtless it gratifies you to observe
Elbowy girls and adipose mamas
All looking adoration as you swerve
This way and that; but prosperous papas
Laugh in their sleeves at you, and their ha-has,
If heard, would somewhat agitate your nerve.
And dames and maids who keep you on their shelves
Don’t seem to want a closer tie themselves.

Gods! what a life you live!⁠—by day a slave
To your exacting back and urgent belly;
Intent to earn and vigilant to save;
By night, attired so sightly and so smelly,
With countenance as luminous as jelly,
Bobbing and bowing! King of hearts and knave
Of diamonds, I’d bet a silver brick
If brains were trumps you’d never take a trick.

Expositor Veritatis

I slept, and, waking in the years to be,
Heard voices, and approaching whence they came,
Listened indifferently where a key
Had lately been removed. An ancient dame
Said to her daughter: “Go to yonder caddy
And get some emery to scour your daddy.”

And then I knew⁠—some intuition said⁠—
That tombs were not and men had cleared their shelves
Of urns; and the electro-plated dead
Stood pedestaled as statues of themselves.
With famous dead men all the public places
Were thronged, and some in piles awaited bases.

One mighty structure’s high façade alone
Contained a single monumental niche,
Where, central in that steep expanse of stone,
Gleamed the familiar form of Thomas Fitch.
A man cried: “Lo! Truth’s temple and its founder!”
Then gravely added: “I’m her chief expounder.”

The Troubadour

Professor Gayley, you’re a great man, sure!
They say that you can almost fly!⁠—can spell
And parse, but cannot figure well
(For mathematics is not literature)
And hold⁠—with rancor⁠—that twice two are fewer
Than they’re cracked up to be. Let sinners tell
Wherein you disappoint, but I will swell
The chorus of your greatness. I’ll procure
For that exploit a megaphone of brass,
And roar your excellences to the sky,
And fill with witness all the world! Alas,
You can’t write poetry! No more can I,
But that, you’ll notice, is another matter.
Besides, I’m less ubiloquent, and fatter.

You hold the Chair, so your credentials say,
Of English Letters. That is well and fine.
Through teaching diligently, line by line,
You may yourself have the good luck some day
To learn enough of it to bid you stay
Your red right hand from making it. The nine
Dear Muses then with laurels will entwine
Your brows and leg it lightly to display
Their joy. O bold, bad poet, hear
These words of wisdom (from a grizzled head)
Inserted civilly into your ear:
In teaching verse you’ll better earn your bread,
And on our feelings less unkindly trample,
If you will work by precept, not example.

Not all the shouting capitals you use
Can strengthen feebleness, nor all the skill
You lack conceal the foolish hates that fill
The fountain whence the driblet of your views
Flows in a dirty channel to suffuse
With slime the British Empire! Dip your quill
In something sweeter and you’ll write less ill⁠—
At least your rant we better can excuse.
No doubt you wish you had been born a Boer
(Spelling excepted, so indeed you were;
A Bore as well) but that’s a very poor
Ambition. By the Lord! I should prefer
To be a Briton though they shot me daily
And threw my body to your hoofs, Jack Gayley.

A Finger on the Lips

O Mike, have ye heard the good news?
They’re gwan to have Home Rule at last;
An’ a Parlyment fine they will chuse,
An’ wurruk’s a thing o’ the past.
They’ll vote every man an estate,
Wid all he can drink and ate.
Indade it’s the blessedest day
We’ve seen since we landed here
In America. Whisht! though⁠—I say⁠—
Bedad, it’s no place to cheer!
For Home Rule we mustn’t hurroo⁠—
They’ll be wantin’ it here if we do.

Three Highwaymen

A street contractor, t’other morn,
Walked out before the day was born.
The silver moon beyond his reach
Had prudently retired, and each
Fair golden star his clutch that feared
Trembled, grew pale, and disappeared.
The sun rose not⁠—afraid to risk
His tempting, double-eagle disk.
Our hero⁠—why spin out the verse?⁠—
Two robbers robbed him of his purse,
Left him uncomfortably spread
On his own pavement, semi-dead,
And ran away exultant. He
Sang “Murder!” “Fire!” in every key,
Until politeness bade him cease
For fear of waking the police.
Then straight unto the Chief, all faint,
He made his way and his complaint:
“I met two robber-men,” said he;
“We battled and⁠—well, look at me!⁠—
Sad citizen, O Chief, you see.”
“How much?” asked that sententious man.
“Well, sir, as nearly as I can
Compute it, though I gave them fits,
They got away⁠—with my six bits.”
“Why, damn your avaricious soul!”
The Chief said: “do you claim the whole?
You did quite well to get, begad,
Within six bits of all they had!”

To “Colonel” Dan Burns

They say, my lord, that you’re a Warwick. Well,
The title’s an absurd one, I believe:
You make no kings, you have no kings to sell,
Though really ’twere easy to conceive
You stuffing half-a-dozen up your sleeve.
No, you’re no Warwick, skillful from the shell
To hatch out sovereigns. On a mare’s nest, maybe,
You’d incubate a little jackass baby.

I fancy, too, that it is naught but stuff,
This “power” that you’re said to be “behind
The throne.” I’m sure ’twere accurate enough
To represent you simply as inclined
To push poor Markham (ailing in his mind
And body, which were never very tough)
Round in an invalid’s wheeled chair. Such menial
Employment to low natures is congenial.

No, Dan, you’re an impostor every way:
A human bubble, for “the earth,” you know,
“Hath bubbles, as the water hath.” Some day
Some careless hand will prick your film, and O,
How utterly you’ll vanish! Daniel, throw
(As fallen Woolsey might to Cromwell say)
Your curst ambition to the pigs⁠—though truly
’Twould make them greater pigs, and more unruly.

George A. Knight

Attorney Knight, it happens so sometimes
That lawyers, justifying cut-throats’ crimes
For hire⁠—calumniating, too, for gold,
The dead, dumb victims cruelly unsouled⁠—
Speak, through the press, to a tribunal far
More honorable than their Honors are⁠—
A court that sits not with assenting smile
While living rogues dead gentleman revile⁠—
A court where scoundrel ethics of your trade
Confuse no judgment and no cheating aid⁠—
The Court of Honest Souls, where you in vain
May plead your right to falsify for gain,
Sternly reminded if a man engage
To serve assassins for the liar’s wage,
His mouth with vilifying falsehoods crammed,
He’s twice detestable and doubly damned!

Attorney Knight, defending Powell, you,
To earn your fee, so energetic grew
(So like a hound, the pride of all the pack,
Clapping your nose upon the dead man’s track
To run his faults to earth⁠—at least proclaim
At vacant holes the overtaken game)
That men who marked you nourishing the tongue,
And saw your arms so vigorously swung,
All marveled how so light a breeze could stir
So great a windmill to so great a whirr!
Little they knew, or surely they had grinned,
The mill was laboring to raise the wind.

Ralph Smith a “shoulder-striker”! God, O hear
This hardy man’s description of thy dear
Dead child, the gentlest soul, save only One,
E’er born in any land beneath the sun.
All silent benefactions still he wrought:
High deed and gracious speech and noble thought,
Kept all thy law, and, seeking still the right,
Upon his blameless breast received the light.

“Avenge, O Lord, Thy slaughtered saints,” one cried
Whose wrath was deep as his comparison wide⁠—
Milton, Thy servant. Nay, Thy will be done:
To smite or spare⁠—to me it all is one.
Can vengeance bring my sorrow to an end,
Or justice give me back my buried friend?
But if some Milton vainly now implore,
And Powell prosper as he did before,
Yet ’twere too much that, making no ado,
Thy saints be slaughtered and be slandered too.
So, Lord, make Knight his weapon keep in sheath,
Or do Thou wrest it from between his teeth!


Saint Peter sat at the jasper gate,
When Senator White arrived in state,

“Admit me.” “With pleasure,” Peter said,
Pleased to observe that the man was dead;

“That’s what I’m here for. Kindly show
Your ticket, my lord, and in you go.”

White stared in blank surprise. Said he:
“I run this place⁠—just turn that key.”

“Yes?” said the Saint; the Senator heard
With pain the inflection of that word.

But, mastering his emotion, he
Remarked: “My friend, you’re too damned free;

“I’m Stephen M., by thunder, White!”
And, “Yes?” the guardian said, with quite

The self-same irritating stress
Distinguishing his former yes.

And still demurely as a mouse
He twirled the key to that Upper House.

Then Stephen, seeing his bluster vain
Admittance to those halls to gain,

Said, neighborly: “Pray tell me, Pete,
Does anyone contest my seat?”

The Saint replied: “Nay, nay, not so;
But you voted always wrong below:

“Whate’er the question, clear and high
Your voice rang: ‘I,’ ‘I,’ ever ‘I.’ ”

Now indignation fired the heart
Of that insulted immortal part.

“Die, wretch!” he cried, with blanching lip,
And made a motion to his hip,

With purpose murderous and hearty,
To draw the Democratic party!

He felt his fingers vainly slide
Upon his unappareled hide

(The dead arise from their “silent tents”
But not their late habiliments)

Then wailed⁠—the briefest of his speeches:
“I’ve left it in my other breeches!”

A Political Violet

Come, Stanford, let us sit at ease
And talk as old friends do.
You talk of anything you please,
And I will talk of you.

You recently have said, I hear,
That you would like to go
To serve as Senator. That’s queer!
Have you told William Stow?

Once when the Legislature said:
“Go, Stanford, and be great!”
You lifted up your Jovian head
And overlooked the State.

As one made leisurely awake,
You lightly rubbed your eyes
And answered: “Thank you⁠—please to make
A note of my surprise.

“But who are they who skulk aside,
As to get out of reach,
And in their clothing strive to hide
Three thousand dollars each?

“Not members of your body, sure?
No, that can hardly be:
All statesmen, I suppose, are pure.
What! there are rogues? Dear me!”

You added, you’ll recall, that though
You were surprised and pained,
You thought, upon the whole, you’d go,
And in that mind remained.

Now, what so great a change has wrought
That you so frankly speak
Of “seeking” honors once unsought
Because you “scorned to seek”?

Do you not fear the grave reproof
In good Creed Haymond’s eye?
Will Stephen Gage not stand aloof
And pass you coldly by?

O, fear you not that Vrooman’s lich
Will rise from earth and point
At you a scornful finger which
May lack, perchance, a joint?

Go, Stanford, where the violets grow,
And join their modest train.
Await the work of William Stow
And be surprised again.

The Subdued Editor

Pope-eater Pixley set in his den
A-chewin’ upon his quid.
He thought it was Leo Thirteen, and then
He bit it intenser, he did.

The amber which overflew from the cud
Like rivers which burst out of bounds⁠—
’Twas peculiar pleasant to think it blood
A-gushin’ from Papal wounds.

A knockin’ was heard uponto the door
Where someone a-waitin’ was.
“Come in,” said the shedder of priestly gore,
Arrestin’ to once his jaws.

The person which entered was curly of hair
And smilin’ as ever you see;
His eyes was blue, and uncommon fair
Was his physiognomee.

And yet there was some’at remarkable grand⁠—
And the editor says as he looks:
“Your Height” (it was Highness, you understand,
That he meant, but he spoke like books)⁠—

“Your Height, I am in. I’m the editor man
Of this paper⁠—which is to say,
I’m the owner, too, and it’s always ran
In the independentest way!

“Not a dam galoot can interfere,
A-shapin’ my course for me:
This paper’s (and nothing can make it veer)
Pixleian in policee!”

“It’s little to me,” said the sunny youth,
“If journals is better or worse:
Where I am to home they won’t keep, in truth,
The climate is that perverse.

“I’ve come, howsomever, your mind to light
With a more superior fire:
You’ll have naught hencefor’ard to do but write,
While I sets by to inspire.

“We’ll make it hot all round, bedad!”
And his laughture was loud and free.
“The devil!” cried Pixley, surpassin’ mad.
“Exactly, my friend⁠—that’s me.”

So he took a chair and a feather fan,
And he sets and sets and sets,
Inspirin’ that humbled editor man,
Which sweats and sweats and sweats!

All unavailin’ his struggles be,
And it’s, O, a weepin’ sight
To see a great editor, bold and free,
Reducted to sech a plight!

“Black Bart, Po8”

Welcome, good friend; as you have served your term,
And found the joy of crime to be a fiction,
I hope you’ll hold your present faith, stand firm
And not again be open to conviction.

Your sins, though scarlet once, are now as wool:
You’ve made atonement for all past offenses,
And conjugated⁠—’twas an awful pull!⁠—
The verb “to pay” in all its moods and tenses.

You were a dreadful criminal⁠—by Heaven,
I think there never was a man so sinful!
We’ve all a pinch or two of Satan’s leaven,
But you appeared to have an even skinful.

Earth shuddered with aversion at your name;
Rivers fled backward, gravitation scorning;
The sea and sky, from thinking on your shame,
Grew lobster-red at eve and in the morning.

But still red-handed at your horrid trade
You wrought, to reason deaf, and to compassion.
But now with gods and men your peace is made
I beg you to be good and in the fashion.

What’s that?⁠—you “ne’er again will rob a stage”?
What! did you do so? Faith, I didn’t know it.
Was that what threw poor Themis in a rage?
I thought you were convicted as a poet!

I own it was a comfort to my soul,
And soothed it better than the deepest curses,
To think they’d put one poet in a hole
Where, though he wrote, he could not print his verses.

I thought that Welcker, Stuart, Brooks and all
The ghastly crew who always are begriming
With villain couplets every page and wall,
Might be arrested and “run in” for rhyming.

And then Parnassus would be left to me,
And Pegasus should bear me up it gaily,
Nor down a steep place run into the sea,
As now he must be tempted to do daily.

Well, grab the lyre-strings, hearties, and begin:
Bawl your harsh souls all out upon the gravel.
I must endure you, for you’ll never sin
By robbing coaches, until dead men travel.

A “Scion of Nobility”

Come, sisters, weep!⁠—our Baron dear,
Alas! has run away.
If always we had kept him here
He had not gone astray.

Painter and grainer it were vain
To say he was, before;
And if he were, yet ne’er again
He’ll darken here a door.

We mourn each matrimonial plan⁠—
Even tradesmen join the cry:
He was so promising a man
Whenever he did buy.

He was a fascinating lad,
Deny it all who may;
Even “moneyed” men confess he had
A very taking way.

So from our tables he is gone⁠—
Our tears descend in showers;
We loved the very fat upon
His kidneys, for ’twas ours.

To women he was all respect
To duns as cold as ice;
No lady could his suit reject,
No tailor get its price.

He raised our hope above the sky;
Alas! alack! and O!
That one who worked it up so high
Should play it down so slow.

The Night of Election

“O venerable patriot, I pray
Stand not here coatless; at the break of day
We’ll know the grand result⁠—and even now
The eastern sky is faintly touched with gray.

“It ill befits thine age’s hoary crown⁠—
This rude environment of rogue and clown,
Who, as the lying bulletins appear,
With drunken cries incarnadine the town.

“But if with noble zeal you stay to note
The outcome of your patriotic vote
For Blaine, or Cleveland, and your native land,
Take⁠—and God bless you!⁠—take my overcoat.”

“Done, pard⁠—it’s mighty white of you. And now
I guess the country’ll keep the trail somehow.
I ain’t allowed to vote, the Warden said,
But whacked my coat up on old Stanislow.”

The Convicts’ Ball

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.
“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 crème de la crème of the place was there⁠—
The swells and belles of our toughest sets,
And Hubert Howe Bancroft sent his regrets.

A Prayer

Sweet Spirit of Cesspool, hear a mother’s prayer:
Her terrors pacify and offspring spare!
Upon Silurians alone let fall
(And God in Heaven have mercy on them all!)
The red revenges of your fragrant breath,
Hot with the flames invisible of death.
Sing in each nose a melody of smells,
And lead them snoutwise to their several hells!

To One Detested

Sir, you’re a veteran, revealed
In history and fable
As warrior since you took the field,
Defeating Abel.

As Commissary later (or
If not, in every cottage
The tale is) you contracted for
A mess of pottage.

In civil life you were, we read
(And our respect increases)
A man of peace⁠—a man, indeed,
Of thirty pieces.

To paying taxes when you turned
Your mind, or what you call so,
A wide celebrity you earned⁠—
Sapphira also.

In every age, by various names,
You’ve won renown in story,
But on your present record flames
A greater glory.

Cain, Esau, and Iscariot too,
And Ananias, likewise,
Each had peculiar powers, but who
Could lie as Mike lies?

The Boss’s Choice

Listen to his wild romances:
He advances foolish fancies,
Each expounded as his “view”⁠—

In his brain’s opacous clot, ah
He has got a maggot! What a
Man with “views” to overwhelm us!⁠—

Hear his demagogic clamor
Hear him stammer in his grammar!
See him laboring to spell⁠—
Gulielmus L.

Slave who paid the price demanded⁠—
With two-handed iron branded
By the boss⁠—pray cease to dose us,
Gulielmus L. Jocosus.

A Merciful Governor

Standing within the triple wall of Hell,
And flattening his nose against a grate
Behind whose brazen bars he’d had to dwell
A thousand million ages to that date,
Stoneman bewailed his melancholy fate,
And his big tear-drops, boiling as they fell,
Had worn between his feet, the record mentions,
A deep depression in the “good intentions.”

Imperfectly by memory taught how⁠—
For prayer in Hell is a lost art⁠—he prayed,
Uplifting his incinerated brow
And flaming hands in supplication’s aid.
“O grant,” he cried, “my torment may be stayed⁠—
In mercy, some short breathing spell allow!
If one good deed I did before my ghosting,
Spare me and give Delmas a double roasting.”

Breathing a holy harmony in Hell,
Down through the appalling clamors of the place,
Charming them all to willing concord, fell
A Voice ineffable and full of grace:
“Because of all the law-defying race
One single malefactor of the cell
Thou didst deny a pardon, thy petition
Gains thee ten thousand years of intermission.”

Back from their fastenings began to shoot
The rusted bolts; with dreadful roar, the gate
Laboriously turned; and, black with soot,
The extinguished spirit passed that awful strait,
And as he legged it into space, elate,
Muttered: “Yes, I remember that galoot⁠—
I’d signed his pardon, ready to allot it,
But stuck it in my desk and quite forgot it.”

An Interpretation

Now Lonergan appears upon the boards,
And Truth and Error sheathe their lingual swords.
No more in wordy warfare to engage,
The commentators bow before the stage,
And bookworms, militant for ages past,
Confess their equal foolishness at last,
Re-read their Shakespeare in the newer light
And swear the meaning’s obvious to sight.
For centuries the question has been hot:
Was Hamlet crazy, or was Hamlet not?
Now, Lonergan’s illuminating art
Reveals the truth of the disputed “part,”
And shows to all the critics of the earth
That Hamlet was an idiot from birth!

A Soaring Toad

So, Waterman, you would not serve again
Although we’d all agree to pay you double.
You find it all is vanity and pain⁠—
One clump of clover in a field of stubble⁠—
One grain of pleasure in a peck of trouble.
’Tis sad, at your age, having to complain
Of disillusion; but the fault is whose
When pigmies stumble, wearing giants’ shoes?

I humbly told you many moons ago
For high preferment you were all unfit.
A clumsy bear makes but a sorry show
Climbing a pole. Let him, judicious, sit
With dignity at bottom of his pit,
And none his awkwardness will ever know.
Some beasts look better, and feel better, too,
Seen from above; and so, I think, would you.

Why, you were mad! Did you suppose because
Our foolish system suffers foolish men
To climb to power, make, enforce the laws,
And, it is whispered, break them now and then,
We love the fellows and respect them when
We’ve stilled the volume of our loud hurrahs?
When folly blooms we trample it the more
For having cultivated it before.

Behold yon laborer! His garb is mean,
His face is grimy, but who thinks to ask
The measure of his brains? ’Tis only seen
He’s fitted for his honorable task,
And so delights the mind. But let him bask
In droll prosperity, absurdly clean⁠—
Is that the man whom we admired before?
Good Lord, how ignorant, and what a bore!

Better for you that thoughtless men had said
(Noting your fitness in the humbler sphere):
“Why don’t they make him Governor?” instead
Of, “Why the devil did they?” But I fear
My words on your inhospitable ear
Are wasted like a sermon to the dead.
Still, they may profit you if studied well:
You can’t be taught to think, but may to spell.

An Undress Uniform

The apparel does not proclaim the man⁠—
Polonius lied like a partisan,
And Salomon still would a hero seem
If (Heaven dispel the impossible dream!)
He stood in a shroud on the hangman’s trap,
His eye burning holes in the black, black cap.
And the crowd below would exclaim amain:
“He’s ready to fall for his country again!”

The Perverted Village

after goldsmith

Sweet Auburn! liveliest village of the plain,
Where Health and Slander welcome every train,
Whence smiling innocence, its tribute paid,
Retires in terror, wounded and dismayed⁠—
Dear lovely bowers of gossip and disease,
Whose climate cures us that thy dames may tease,
How often have I knelt upon thy green
And prayed for death, to mitigate their spleen!
How often have I paused on every charm
With mingled admiration and alarm⁠—
The brook that runs by many a scandal-mill,
The church whose pastor groans upon the grill,
The cowthorn bush with seats beneath the shade,
Where hearts are struck and reputations flayed;
How often wished thine idle wives, some day,
Might more at whist, less at the devil, play.

Unblest retirement! ere my life’s decline
(Killed by detraction) may I witness thine.
How happy she who, shunning shades like these,
Finds in a wolf-den greater peace and ease;
Who quits the place whence truth did earlier fly,
And rather than come back prefers to die!
For her no jealous maids renounce their sleep,
Contriving malices to make her weep;
No iron-faced dames her character debate
And spurn imploring mercy from the gate;
But down she lies to a more peaceful end,
For wolves do not calumniate, but rend⁠—
Sinks piecemeal to their maws, a willing prey,
While resignation lubricates the way,
And all her prospects brighten at the last:
To wolves, not women, an approved repast.


Mr. Sheets

The Devil stood before the gate
Of Heaven. He had a single mate:
Behind him, in his shadow, slunk
Clay Sheets in a perspiring funk.
“Saint Peter, see this season ticket,”
Said Satan; “pray undo the wicket.”
The sleepy Saint threw slight regard
Upon the proffered bit of card,
Signed by some sacerdotal cheats:
“Admit the bearer and Clay Sheets.”
Peter expanded all his eyes:
“ ‘Clay Sheets?’⁠—well, I’ll be damned!” he cries.
“Our couches are of golden cloud;
Nothing of earth is here allowed.
I’ll let you in,” he added, shedding
On Nick a smile⁠—“but not your bedding.”

A Jack-at-All-Views

So, Estee, you are still alive! I thought
That you had died and were a blessed ghost.
I know at least your coffin once was bought
With Railroad money; and ’twas said by most
Historians that Stanford made a boast
The seller “threw you in.” That goes for naught⁠—
Man takes delight in fancy’s fine inventions,
And woman too, ’tis said, if they are French ones.

Do you remember, Estee⁠—ah, ’twas long
And long ago!⁠—how fierce you grew and hot
When anything impeded the straight, strong,
Wild sweep of the great billow you had got
Atop of, like a swimmer bold? Great Scott!
How fine your wavemanship! How loud your song
Of “Down with railroads!” When the wave subsided
And left you stranded you were much divided.

Then for a time you were content to wade
The waters of the “robber barons’ ” moat.
To fetch, and carry was your humble trade,
And ferry Stanford over in a boat,
Well paid if he bestowed the kindly groat
And spoke you fair and called you pretty maid.
And when his stomach seemed a bit unsteady
You got your serviceable basin ready.

Strange man! how odd to see you, smug and spruce,
There at Chicago, burrowed in a Chair,
Not made to measure and a deal too loose,
And see you lift your little arm and swear
Democracy shall be no more! If it’s a fair
And civil question, and not too abstruse,
Were you elected as a “robber baron,”
Or as a Communist whose teeth had hair on?

My Lord Poet

“Who drives fat oxen should himself be fat;”
Who sings for nobles, he should noble be.
There’s no non sequitur, I think, in that,
And this is logic plain as A.B.C.
Now, Hector Stuart, you’re a Scottish prince,
If right you fathom your descent⁠—that fall
From grace; and since you have no peers, and since
You have no kind of nobleness at all,
’Twere better to sing little, lest you wince
When made by heartless critics to sing small.
And yet, my liege, I bid you not despair⁠—
Ambition conquers but a realm at once:
For European bays arrange your hair⁠—
Two continents, in time, shall crown you Dunce!

To the Fool-Killer

Ah, welcome, welcome! Sit you down, old friend:
Your pipe I’ll serve, your bottle I’ll attend.
’Tis many a year since you and I have known
Society more pleasant than our own
In our brief respites from excessive work⁠—
I pointing out the hearts for you to dirk.
What have you done since lately at this board
We canvassed the deserts of all the horde,
And chose what names would please the people best,
Engraved on coffin-plates⁠—what bounding breast
Would give more satisfaction if at rest?
But never mind⁠—the record cannot fail:
The loftiest monuments will tell the tale.

I trust ere next we meet you’ll slay the chap
Who calls old Tyler “Judge” and Merry “Cap”⁠—
Calls John P. Irish “Colonel” and John P.,
Whose surname Jack-son speaks his pedigree,
By the same title⁠—men of equal rank
Though one is belly all, and one all shank,
Showing their several service in the fray:
One fought for food and one to get away.
I hope, I say, you’ll kill the “title” man
Who saddles one on every back he can,
Then rides it from Beërsheba to Dan!
Another fool, I trust, you will perform
Your office on while my resentment’s warm:
He shakes my hand a dozen times a day
If, luckless, I so often cross his way,
Though I’ve three senses besides that of touch,
To make me conscious of a fool too much.
Seek him, friend Killer, and your purpose make
Apparent as his guilty hand you take,
And set him trembling with a solemn: “Shake!”

But chief of all the addle-witted crew
Conceded by the Hangman’s League to you,
The fool (his dam’s acquainted with a knave)
Whose fluent pen, of his no-brain the slave,
Strews notes of introduction o’er the land
And calls it hospitality. His hand
May palsy seize ere he again consign
To me his friend, as I to Hades mine!
Pity the wretch, his faults howe’er you see,
Whom A accredits to his victim, B.
Like shuttlecock which battledores attack
(One speeds it forward, one would drive it back)
The trustful simpleton is twice unblest⁠—
A rare good riddance, an unwelcome guest.
The glad consignor rubs his hands to think
How duty is commuted into ink;
The consignee (his hands he cannot rub⁠—
He has the man upon them) mutters: “Cub!”
And straightway plans to lose him at the club.
You know, good Killer, where this dunce abides⁠—
The secret jungle where he writes and hides⁠—
Though no exploring foot has e’er upstirred
His human elephant’s exhaustless herd.
Go, bring his blood! We’ll drink it⁠—letting fall
A due libation to the gods of Gall.
On second thought, the gods may have it all.

One and One Are Two

The trumpet sounded and the dead
Came forth from earth and ocean,
And Pickering arose and sped
Aloft with wobbling motion.

“What makes him fly lop-sided?” cried
A soul of the elected.
“One ear was wax,” a rogue replied,
“And isn’t resurrected.”

Below him on the pitted plain,
By his abandoned hollow,
His hair and teeth tried all in vain
The rest of him to follow.

Saint Peter, seeing him ascend,
Came forward to the wicket,
And said: “My mutilated friend,
I’ll thank you for your ticket.”

“The Call,” said Pickering, his hand
To reach the latch extended.
Said Peter, affable and bland:
“The free-list is suspended⁠—

“What claim have you that’s valid here?”
That ancient vilifier
Reflected; then, with look austere,
Replied: “I am a liar.”

Said Peter: “That is simple, neat
And candid Anglo-Saxon,
But⁠—well, come in, and take a seat
Up there by Colonel Jackson.”

Montague Leverson

As some enormous violet that towers
Colossal o’er the heads of lowlier flowers⁠—
Its giant petals royally displayed,
And casting half the landscape into shade;
Delivering its odors, like the blows
Of some strong slugger, at the public nose;
Pride of two Nations⁠—for a single State
Would scarce suffice to sprout a plant so great;
So Leverson’s humility, outgrown
The meaner virtues that he deigns to own,
To the high skies its great corolla rears,
In the benign sufflation of his cheers.

The Woeful Tale of Mr. Peters

I should like, good friends, to mention the disaster that befell
Mr. William Perry Peters, of the town of Muscatel.
Whose fate is full of meaning if correctly understood⁠—
Admonition to the haughty, consolation to the good.

It happened in the hot snap which we recently incurred,
When ’twas warm enough to carbonize the feathers of a bird,
And men exclaimed: “By Hunky!” who were bad enough to swear,
And pious persons supervised their adjectives with care.

Mr. Peters was a pedagogue of honor and repute,
His learning comprehensive, multifarious, minute.
It was commonly conceded in the section whence he came
That the man who played against him needed knowledge of the game.

And some there were who whispered, in the town of Muscatel,
That besides the game of Draw he knew Orthography as well;
Though, the school directors, frigidly contemning that as stuff,
Thought that Draw (and maybe Spelling, if he had it) was enough.

Withal, he was a haughty man⁠—indubitably great,
But too vain of his attainments and his power in debate.
His mien was contumelious to men of lesser gift:
“It’s only me,” he said, “can give the human mind a lift.

“Before a proper audience, if ever I’ve a chance,
You’ll see me chipping in, the cause of Learning to advance.
Just let me have a decent chance to back my mental hand
And I’ll come to center lightly in a way they’ll understand.”

Such was William Perry Peters, and I feel a poignant sense
Of grief that I’m unable to employ the present tense;
But Providence disposes, be our scheming what it may,
And disposed of Mr. Peters in a cold, regardless way.

It occurred in San Francisco, whither Mr. Peters came
In the cause of Education, feeling still the holy flame
Of ambition to assist in lifting up the human mind
To a higher plane of knowledge than its Architect designed.

He attended the convention of the pedagogic host;
He was first in the Pavilion, he was last to leave his post.
For days and days he narrowly observed the Chairman’s eye,
His efforts ineffectual to catch it on the fly.

The blessed moment came at last: the Chairman tipped his head;
“The gentleman from ah⁠—um⁠—er,” that functionary said.
The gentleman from ah⁠—um⁠—er reflected with a grin;
“They’ll know me better by-and-by, when I’m a-chipping in.”

So William Perry Peters mounted cheerfully his feet⁠—
And straightway was aglow with an incalculable heat!
His face was as effulgent as a human face could be,
And caloric emanated from his whole periphery;

For he felt himself the focus of non-Muscatelish eyes,
And the pain of their convergence was a terror and surprise!
As with pitiless appulsion all their heat-waves on him broke
He was seen to be evolving awful quantities of smoke!

“Put him out!” cried all in chorus; but the meaning wasn’t clear
Of that succoring suggestion to his obfuscated ear;
And it notably augmented his incinerating glow
To regard himself excessive, or in any way de trop.

Gone was all his wild ambition to lift up the human mind!⁠—
Gone the words he would have uttered!⁠—gone the thought that lay behind!
For “words that burn” may be consumed in a superior flame,
And “thoughts that breathe” may breathe their last, and die a death of shame.

He’d known himself a shining light, but never had he known
Himself so very luminous as now he knew he shone.
“A pillar, I, of fire,” he’d said, “to guide my race will be;”
And now that very inconvenient thing to him was he.

He stood there all irresolute; the seconds went and came;
The minutes passed and did but add fresh fuel to his flame.
How long he stood he knew not⁠—’twas a century or more⁠—
And then that incandescent man levanted for the door!

He darted like a comet from the building to the street,
Where Fahrenheit attested ninety-five degrees of heat.
Vicissitudes of climate make the tenure of the breath
Precarious, and William Perry Peters froze to death!

Twin Unworthies

Ye parasites that to the rich men stick,
As to the fattest sheep the thrifty tick⁠—
Ed’ard to Stanford and to Crocker, Ben
(To Ben and Ed’ard many meaner men,
And lice to these)⁠—who do the kind of work
That thieves would have the honesty to shirk⁠—
Whose wages are that your employers own
The fat that reeks upon your every bone
And deign to ask (the flattery how sweet!)
About its health and how it stands the heat⁠—
Hail and farewell! I meant to write about you,
But, no, my page is cleaner far without you.


Lo! tooth and nail my countrymen contest
Which portrait of Columbus is the best.
Considering that the pirate never “sat,”
That is as like as this, and this as that.
We want a face that shows, by all the rules,
A prophecy of ninety million fools.

A War Cry

Charles Shortridge, with his martial mouth in place
At his own ear, shouts dreadful!
Pale horrors shudder through eternal space⁠—
Of which he has a headful.

In Dissuasion

Dan Burns, you’d be a Senator, I hear,
And Senators are persons of much note.
I cannot choose but think it very queer
That you solicit for the place a vote.
Why, don’t you know you’ll have to ride the goat,
Be skyward from a shaken blanket hurled
And put in session on a heated chair
Till your immortal part is more than rare⁠—
Your foretaste of another, warmer world?
’Tis said that all ambitious louts who dare
Aspire to Senatorial fame receive it
In some such fashion, though I don’t believe it.

Still, you’ll suppose that this has all occurred.
If in that Upper House you e’er arise,
Trembly and hot, to speak your maiden word⁠—
Walls, desks, floor, ceiling to your failing eyes
Seeming to blend, and Senators like flies
To spin about in space! Rash man, forbear
To cherish your accurst ambition! Sir,
Your breeding and your character confer
Small right to breathe in that expanded air.
For toads to perch with eagles is to err.
Pray Heaven to send contentment with your station
And bar you from the hauls of legislation.

The toga, if you win it, scarce will serve
To cover up the stripes (where are the stars?)
Which to a fertile fancy seem to curve
Round you like shadows of the prison bars.
Embezzlement, I’m told, exists in Mars,
Where sometimes an official will “convey”
And in “the shadow of the jail” abide
Till it seems photographed upon his hide
And shapes his gait, as if he dragged alway
A ball-and-chain. Upon the Moon’s far side
Dwells such a man, who knows not (goes the story)
Which of the saints he is when out for glory.

A Prediction

When the skies are green with clover,
And the cows are flying over;
When the roses lose their fragrance;
When the ants are shiftless vagrants;
When the peacocks pluck their tails,
And the lion pares his nails;
When old ocean’s roaring ridges
Roll beneath iridium bridges;
When diseases and physicians
Quarrel; when the politicians
Go to work; when lawyers never
Fib no more again forever;
When we gather ice to burn,
And to eggs potatoes turn;
When the pie-distended sleeper
On the nightmare keeps his peeper.
Quick to round her up and mount her,
Field and Terry will “encounter.”

When the whales, in battle order,
March across our northern border;
When the serpent of the sea
Is no longer known to be;
When the cats intone in Latin,
And the lady ape wears satin;
When the vulture, Mortgage, perches
Nevermore upon the churches;
When the sycophant despises
Arts by which the bird-louse rises
Comfortably to the sky,
And the smithy-haunting fly,
Sitting on the swelling bellows,
Is no prouder than his fellows;
When the mocking-bird eschews
All of his assenting views.
Nor proclaims them out of season;
When the poets learn to reason;
When lieutenants damn the bullets
Penetrating captains’ gullets,
And a major feels the pain
Of his colonel’s shattered brain;
When the best of human creatures
Is the most austere of preachers,
And the woman who’s demurest
Is the truest and the purest;
When the Mississippi, yearning
For its native hills and turning
Deftly backward in its bed,
Lays its mouth against its head;
When the turtle-doves are cruel⁠—
Field and Terry’ll fight a duel.

Another Plan

Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as “our friend J. J.,”
Weary of scribbling for daily bread,
Weary of writing what nobody read,
Slept one day at his desk and dreamed
That an angel before him stood and beamed
With compassionate eyes upon him there.

Editor Owen is not so fair
In feature, expression, form or limb
But glances like that are familiar to him;
And so, to arrive by the shortest route
At his visitor’s will he said simply: “Toot.”

“Editor Owen,” the angel said,
“Scribble no more for your daily bread.
Your intellect staggers and falls and bleeds,
Weary of writing what nobody reads.
Eschew now the quill⁠—in the coming years
Homilize man through his idle ears.
Go lecture!” “Just what I intended to do,”
Said Owen. The angel looked pained and flew.

Editor Owen, of San Jose,
Commonly known as “our friend J. J.,”
Scribbling no more to supply his needs,
Weary of writing what nobody reads.
Passes of life each golden year
Speaking what nobody comes to hear.

A Political Apostate

Good friend, it is with deep regret I note
The latest, strangest turning of your coat;
Though any way you wear that mental clout
The seamy side seems always to be out.
Who could have thought that you would e’er sustain
The Southern shotgun’s arbitrary reign?⁠—
Your sturdy hand assisting to replace
The broken yoke on a delivered race;
The ballot’s purity no more your care,
With equal privilege to dark and fair.
To Yesterday a traitor, to To-day
You’re constant but the better to betray
To-morrow. Your convictions all are naught
But the wild asses of the world of thought,
Which, flying mindless o’er the barren plain,
Perceive at last they’ve nothing so to gain,
And, turning penitent upon their track,
Economize their strength by flying back.

Ex-champion of Freedom, battle-lunged,
No more, red-handed, or at least red-tongued,
Brandish the javelin which by others thrown
Clove Sambo’s heart to quiver in your own!
Confess no more that when his blood was shed,
And you so sympathetically bled,
The bow that spanned the mutual cascade
Was but the promise of a roaring trade
In offices. Your fingering now the trigger
Shows that you knew your Negro was a nigger!
Ad hominem this argumentum runs:
Peace!⁠—let us fire another kind of guns.

I grant you, friend, that it is very true
The Blacks are ignorant⁠—and sable, too.
What then? One way of two a fool must vote,
And either way with gentlemen of note
Whose villain feuds the fact attest too well
That pedagogues nor vice nor error quell.
The fiercest controversies ever rage
When Miltons and Salmasii engage.
No project wide attention ever drew
But it disparted all the learned crew.
As through their group the cleaving line’s prolonged
With fiery combatants each field is thronged;
In battle-royal they engage at once
For guidance of the hesitating dunce.
The Titans on the heights contend full soon⁠—
On this side Webster and on that Calhoun,
The monstrous conflagration of their fight
Startling the day and splendoring the night!
Both are unconquerable⁠—one is right.
Will’t keep the pigmy, if we make him strong,
From siding with a giant in the wrong?
When Genius strikes for error, who’s afraid
To arm poor Folly with a wooden blade?
O Rabelais, you knew it all!⁠—your good
And honest judge (by men misunderstood)
Knew to be right there was but one device
Less fallible than intellect⁠—the dice.
The time must come⁠—Heaven expedite the day!⁠—
When all mankind shall their decrees obey,
And nations prosper in their peaceful sway.

Tinker Dick

Good Parson Dickson preached, I’m told,
A sermon⁠—ah, ’twas very old
And very, very, bald!
’Twas all about⁠—I know not what
It was about, nor what ’twas not.
“A Screw Loose” it was called.

Whatever, Parson Dick, you say,
The world will get each blessed day
Still more and more askew,
And fall apart at last. Great snakes!
What skillful tinker ever takes
His tongue to turn a screw?

A Peaceful Community

With lifted hands, Lone Mountain’s giant cross
Stands in the sky against the Western splendor!
(A ship beyond is playing pitch-and-toss;
She hugs⁠—ships all are feminine in gender⁠—
The shore, then fickly turns away to find
Another shore to suit her altered mind.)

About the foot of that tall rood are spread
The simple mound and pompous mausoleum⁠—
Three several republics of the dead,
Whose citizens love peace. You’ll never see ’em
Assail a street-car passenger with stones,
Nor brain a woman with their marrow bones.

Not even in Potter’s Field the pauper crew
E’er go on strike to get a fair division
Of monumental fame. (If they but knew,
Their barren paddock is a Field Elysian,
Compared with many an historic place,
Where royal odors leg it into space.)

The dead intimidate no Sandlot Judge,
Nor was it ever their besetting sin to
Scare burly Sheriffs. Faith! I’d not begrudge
That cross the necks if it were fashioned into
A double gibbet, on one arm to bear
A rioter, on t’other one a Mayor.

Long live the dead! Since they prefer to live
Within the law, it is a monstrous pity
That early legislation did not give
Them the authority to rule this city.
Here’s to their health! and may their tribe increase⁠—
Recruited from the Judges and Police.

With a Book

Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning⁠—
Sense lacking.

Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning,
Save blacking.

A Competitor

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
My legs are not so very straight;
My spine, I’m sorry to observe,
Maintains a most rebellious curve;
My neck is skinny, and my bust
Would justify a husband’s trust.
But papa thinks his Mary Ann
Is built upon a gorgeous plan.

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
I take the liberty to state
That Venuses would go on strike
If ordered to be all alike;
For some are made for this, and some
For that⁠—you take ’em as they come.
But papa says: “My Mary Ann
Knocks out the whole damn caravan!”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
They think in Greaserville I’m great⁠—
They say in Greaserville: “You bet
She’ll make them hens get up and get!
She’s just a bird!” So when I clout
Myself in cheese-cloth you look out!
For papa says: “My Mary Ann
Has win whenever she has ran.”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
I’m giving you the business straight:
Make any standards that you please
Beneath my cloth I’m just the cheese.
I care not what the artists say⁠—
I’m in it and I’m in to stay.
For papa says: “If Mary Ann
Will advertise she’ll get a man.”

Mrs. Frona Eunice Wait,
Head Venus-herder of the State,
Round up your girls. But Frona, dear
I think it very, very queer
That you yourself do not compete.
Are you too plump or too petite?
My papa says: “Why, Mary Ann,
She’s from Beërsheba to Dan!”


By seven brave poems the Mikado shows
His royal fitness for the field of prose.
Of bold, bad bards to crown him brother-chief
Dick Watson Gilder spares one laurel leaf.

Bats in Sunshine

Well, Mr. Kemble, you are called, I think,
A great divine, and I’m a great profane.
You as a Congregationalist blink
Some certain truths that I esteem a gain,
And drop them in the coffers of my brain,
Pleased with the pretty music of their chink.
Perhaps your spiritual wealth is such
A golden truth or two don’t count for much.

You say that you’ve no patience with such stuff
As by Rénan is writ, and when you read
(Why do you read?) have hardly strength enough
To hold your hand from flinging the vile screed
Into the fire. That were a wasteful deed
Which you’d repent in sackcloth extra rough;
For books cost money, and I’m told you care
To lay up treasures Here as well as There.

I fear, good, pious soul, that you mistake
Your thrift for toleration. Never mind:
Rénan in any case would hardly break
His great, strong, charitable heart to find
The bats and owls of your myopic kind
Pained by the light that his ideas make.
’Tis Truth’s best purpose to shine in at holes
Where cower the Kembles, to confound their souls!

A Word to the Unwise

Charles Main, of the firm of Main & Winchester, has ordered a grand mausoleum for his plot in Mountain View Cemetery.
City Newspaper

Charles Main, of Main & Winchester, attend
With friendly ear the chit-chat of a friend
Who knows you not, yet knows that you and he
Travel two roads that have a common end.

We journey forward through the time allowed,
I humbly bending, you erect and proud.
Our heads alike will stable soon the worm⁠—
The one that’s lifted, and the one that’s bowed.

You in your mausoleum shall repose,
I where it pleases Him who sleep bestows;
What matter whether one so little worth
Shall stain the marble or shall feed the rose?

Charles Main, I had a friend who died one day.
A metal casket held his honored clay.
Of cyclopean architecture stood
The splendid vault where he was laid away.

A dozen years, and lo! the roots of grass
Had burst asunder all the joints; the brass,
The gilded ornaments, the carven stones
Lay tumbled all together in a mass.

A dozen years! That taxes your belief.
Make it a thousand if the time’s too brief.
’Twill be the same to you; when you are dead
You cannot even count your days of grief.

Suppose a pompous monument you raise
Till on its peak the solar splendor blaze
While yet about its base the night is black;
But will it give your glory length of days?

Say, when beneath your rubbish has been thrown,
Some rogue to reputation all unknown⁠—
Men’s backs being turned⁠—should lift his thieving hand,
Efface your name and substitute his own,

Whose then would be the monument? To whom
Would be the fame? Forgotten in your gloom⁠—
Your very name forgotten⁠—ah, my friend,
The name is all that’s rescued by the tomb.

For memory of worth and work we go
To other records than a stone can show.
These lacking, naught remains; with these
The stone is needless for the world will know.

Then build your mausoleum if you must,
And creep into it with a perfect trust;
But in the twinkling of an eye the plow
Shall pass without obstruction through your dust.

Another movement of the pendulum,
And, lo! the desert-haunting wolf shall come,
And, seated on the spot, shall howl by night
O’er rotting cities, desolate and dumb.

On the Platform

When Dr. Bill Bartlett stepped out of the hum
Of Mammon’s distracting and wearisome strife
To stand and deliver a lecture on “Some
Conditions of Intellectual Life,”
I cursed the offender who gave him the hall
To lecture on any conditions at all!

But he rose with a fire divine in his eye,
Haranguing with endless abundance of breath,
Till I slept; and I dreamed of a gibbet reared high,
And Dr. Bill Bartlett was dressing for death.
And I thought in my dream: “These conditions, no doubt,
Are bad for the life he was talking about.”

So I cried (pray remember this all was a dream):
“Get off of the platform!⁠—it isn’t the kind!”
But he fell through the trap, with a jerk at the beam,
And wiggled his toes to unburden his mind.
And, O, so bewitching the thoughts he advanced
That I clung to his ankles, attentive, entranced!

Judge Not

To foreigners in San Francisco, greeting.
When you see a labor-leader fiercely beating
The air with all his fingers to betoken
His view of this or that ere yet ’tis spoken⁠—
When you see him, as in dancing, foot it featly
To manifest dissent the more completely⁠—
When you hear him in a tempest of emotion
Deflate himself of some unpeaceful notion,
Don’t prophesy a blazing revolution;
Don’t drag the guillotine from its seclusion;
Don’t whistle up a storm of blood and thunder,
To fill the world with horror, fear and wonder!
He’s dreadful in defining his position,
He’s terrible in threatening sedition⁠—
And a Past Grand Master of Submission.


My days all are wasted in vainly
Contesting the field against Fate;
My nights with remorses insanely
Are swarming, and spectres of hate.

“O for rest! O for peace!” I cry madly⁠—
“Let me fall, for I faint in the strife.
To be dead, to be dead, I’d give gladly
All, all that I have, except life.”

To Dog

Pervading pest! Old Adam, when he saw
Thy prime progenitor, I doubt not, swore
And kicked the curst kioodle from the door,
Though now thy whelpage we protect by law.
In faith, thou must have been a beastly, raw,
Uncultivated monster many score
Immemorable centuries before
Thy rigor was by breeding made to thaw.
How racy of the soil thou must have been!⁠—
Indigenous and close to nature’s heart!
How strong thy jaw-lock, habits how unclean,
And what a sink of infamy thy heart!
It may be, though, thou wert created upright.
If Man (the angels’ care) could fall, a pup might.

To a Grabber

If, Prentiss Maslin, you would kindly leave
A coin or two of what the State has hoarded
We’d think it generous of you; for we’ve
But just begun our fortunes to retrieve,
Having lost all our treasury afforded
To certain robbers, who, departing, left
Us you as a memorial of the theft.

Memorial? Bless you! you’re the very thing
Incarnate⁠—and by no means any cleaner
For incarnation. Sir, you are the king
Of crimes, grown great and proud remembering
When you were young and but a misdemeanor.
Let lesser souls be ravenous of pelf,
He scorns the gains of greed who’s greed itself.

What! shall a firework covetously yearn
While splendoring the skies⁠—a gorgeous rocket
Where golden constellations grandly burn⁠—
To take the earth along? ’Tis sad to learn
That even the robe of glory has a pocket.
In you, alas! I’d fondly hoped to see
One man that loved himself unselfishly.

Memorial Day

The bands have played, the singers finished singing,
The flags done flapping and the bells done ringing.
Hereditary candidates have spoken;
Their tongues are silent and their hearts are broken⁠—
Barnes, Shortridge, Salomon-in-all-his-glory,
With wounds (their mouths) no longer wide and gory⁠—
Healed by the touch of time; for even orations
Must sometimes come to end if one have patience.
And still in spite of all the din infernal
Of every “General” and “Judge” and “Colonel,”
Our grand old heroes sleep in peace eternal!

A Dampened Ardor

The Chinatown at Bakersfield
Was blazing bright and high;
The flames to water would not yield,
Though torrents drenched the sky
And drowned the ground for miles around⁠—
The houses were so dry.

Then rose an aged preacher man
Whom all did much admire,
Who said: “To force on you my plan
I truly don’t aspire,
But streams, it seems, might quench these beams
If turned upon the fire.”

The fireman said: “This hoary wight
His folly dares to thrust
On us! ’Twere well he felt our might⁠—
Nay, he shall feel our must!”
With jet of wet and small regret
They laid that old man’s dust.

Adair Welcker, Poet

The Swan of Avon died⁠—the Swan
Of Sacramento’ll soon be gone;
And when his death-song he shall coo,
Stand back, or it will kill you too.

To a Word-Warrior

Frank Pixley, you, who kiss the hand
That strove to cut the country’s throat,
Cannot forgive the hands that smote
Applauding in a distant land⁠—

Applauding carelessly, as one
The weaker willing to befriend
Until the quarrel’s at an end,
Then learn by whom it was begun.

When North was pitted against South
Non-combatants on either side
In calculating fury vied,
And fought their foes by word of mouth.

That mad logomachy you led
With formidable feats of tongue.
Then on the battle’s rear you hung⁠—
With Samson’s weapon slew the dead!

So hot the ardor of your soul
That every fierce civilian came
His torch to kindle at your flame,
Or have you blow his cooling coal.

Men prematurely left their beds
And sought the gelid bath⁠—so great
The heat and splendor of your hate
Of Englishmen and “Copperheads.”

King Liar of deceitful men,
For imposition doubly armed!
The patriots whom your speaking charmed
You stung to madness with your pen.

There was a certain journal here,
Its English owner growing rich⁠—
Your hand the treason wrote for which
A mob cut short its curst career.

If, Pixley, you had not the brain
To know the true from false, or you
To Truth had courage to be true,
And loyal to her perfect reign;

If you had not your powers arrayed
To serve the wrong by tricksy speech,
Nor pushed yourself within the reach
Of retribution’s accolade,

I had not had the will to go
Outside the olive-bordered path
Of peace to cut the birch of wrath,
And strip your body for the blow.

Behold how dark the war-clouds rise
About the mother of our race!
The lightnings gild her tranquil face
And glitter in her patient eyes.

Her children throng the hither flood
And lean intent above the beach.
Their beating hearts inhibit speech
With stifling tides of English blood.

“Their skies, but not their hearts, they change
Who go in ships across the sea”⁠—
Through all centuries to be
The strange new land will still be strange.

The Island Mother holds in gage
The souls of sons she never saw;
Superior to law, the law
Of sympathetic heritage.

Forgotten now the foolish reign
Of wrath which sundered trivial ties.
A soldier’s sabre vainly tries
To cleave a spiritual chain.

The iron in our blood affines,
Though fratricidal hands may spill.
Shall Hate be throned on Bunker Hill,
Yet Love abide in Seven Pines?

A Culinary Candidate

A cook adorned with paper cap,
Or waiter with a tray,
May be a worthy kind of chap
In his way,
But when we want one for Recorder,
Then, Mr. Walton, take our order.

To One Acquitted

Sir, you have killed a man and you are free⁠—
That is, your hanging ne’er will come about;
For I’ve observed when jurors disagree
’Tis not as ’tis when other thieves fall out.
Some honest men are in the case, no doubt,
But none come by their own⁠—not even the chap
Whose honest office is to spring the trap.

Some needy tramp, I think, is deputized
That lowly function to perform⁠—although
I must confess I am not well advised
Concerning that: I ne’er did undergo
A hanging; but if I am right you owe
The customary perquisite to some
Poor shivering and disappointed “bum.”

If Californian hangmen are too proud
To wear the clothing of the wretch they string,
And the good ancient custom’s been allowed
To lapse; or if so seldom murderers swing
In this good land that there is no such thing
As custom in the case, the truth we reach is:
You’ve forfeited your life, but not your breeches.


One day when Satan visited the earth
In order that his eyes might feed his mirth,
A loyal follower in sorrow said,
“Father of Falsehood, to our idols wed
We rear memorials in bronze and stone
To every kind of mortal greatness known;
But not in this thy realm stands anywhere
A monument or statue to declare
Thy greater glory.” With the modest mien
Of violet that loves to bloom unseen,
Satan replied: “All earthly fame I shun,
Content with consciousness of work well done.
Statues to heroes! Mine the humble glory
To tell on every pedestal the story.”

At the Observatory

Mahatma Holden, Autocrat of Stars,
Fixed to the telescope his curious eye
And waited for some great phenomenon
To seek his field of vision. Years and years,
Retiring early, rising with the sun,
With patience proof against defeat, he still
Had sought some grand discovery; and still,
Dogging the footsteps of endeavor, came
Grim disappointment and in mockery
Derided him. But now, even as he gazed,
A great white light crept up the sky, and lo!
Into the telescope’s illumined ken
Swam with a stately grace a noble orb,
And paused in mid-field of the mighty tube!

Mahatma Holden, Autocrat of Stars,
Was found next morn beneath the instrument,
Senseless and motionless as one that’s dead.
“By some emotion overcome,” said one
(Sometime physician to the Ghug of Smat)
Who with sharp stimulants and kindly words
Strove to revive him. Scarcely had the fresh
And wholesome air saluted both his lungs
Than, “Paper!” cried he⁠—“paper, pen and ink!
Quick, ere the glorious memory fades! Ah, friends,
Not all in vain my vigils and my skill
To read the secrets of the upper deep:
At last I’m famous and my name shall ring
Adown the centuries unlinked with theirs,
My menials, Burnham, Bar⁠—” he faltered then,
Yet with a mighty effort peaced himself,
Mastered his spirit, calmly gazed about
And, with angelic dignity, explained:
“I’ve found the Moon!” And it was even so.

The Oleomargarine Man

Once⁠—in the county of Marin,
Where milk is sold to purchase gin⁠—
Renowned for butter and renowned
For fourteen ounces to the pound⁠—
A bull stood watching every turn
Of Mr. Wilson with a churn,
As that deigning worthy stalked
About him, eying as he walked
El Toro’s sleek and silken hide,
His neck, his flank and all beside;
Thinking with secret joy: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

Soon Mr. Wilson’s keen concern
To get the creature in his churn
Unhorsed his caution⁠—made him blind
To the fell vigor of bullkind,
Till, filled with valor to the teeth,
He drew his dasher from its sheath
And bravely brandished it; the while
He smiled a dark, portentous smile;
A deep, sepulchral smile; a wide
And open smile, which, at his side,
The churn to copy vainly tried;
A smile so like the dawn of doom
That all the field was palled in gloom,
And all the trees within a mile,
As tribute to that awful smile,
Made haste, with loyalty discreet,
To fling their shadows at his feet.
Then rose his battle-cry: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

To such a night the day had turned
That Taurus dimly was discerned.
He wore so meek and grave an air
It seemed as if, engaged in prayer
This thunderbolt incarnate had
No thought of anything that’s bad:
This concentrated earthquake stood
And gave his mind to being good.
Lightly and low he drew his breath⁠—
This magazine of sudden death!
All this the thrifty Wilson’s glance
Took in, and, crying, “Now’s my chance!”
Upon the bull he sprang amain
To put him in his churn. Again
Rang out his battle-yell: “I’ll spread
This mammal on a slice of bread!”

Sing, Muse, that battle-royal⁠—sing
The deeds that made the region ring:
The blows, the bellowing, the cries,
The dust that darkened all the skies,
The thunders of the contest, all!
Nay, none of these things did befall.
A yell there was⁠—a rush⁠—no more:
El Toro, tranquil as before,
Still stood there basking in the sun,
Nor of his legs had shifted one⁠—
Stood there and conjured up his cud
And meekly munched it. Scenes of blood
Had little charm for him. His head
He merely nodded as he said:
“I’ve spread that butterman upon
A slice of Southern Oregon.”

The Genesis of Crime

God said, “Let there be Crime,” and the command
Brought Satan, leading Stoneman by the hand.
“Why, that’s Stupidity, not Crime,” said God⁠—
“Bring what I ordered.” Satan with a nod
Replied, “This is one element⁠—when I
The other⁠—Opportunity⁠—supply
In just equivalent, the two’ll affine
And in a chemical embrace combine
And Crime result⁠—for Crime can only be
Stupiditate of Opportunity.”
So leaving Stoneman (not as yet endowed
With soul) in special session on a cloud,
Nick to his sooty laboratory went,
Returning soon with t’other element.
“Here’s Opportunity,” he said, and put
Pen, ink, and paper down at Stoneman’s foot.
He seized them⁠—Heaven was filled with fires and thunders,
And Crime was added to Creation’s wonders!

Llewellyn Powell

Villain, when the word is spoken,
And your chains at last are broken;
When the gibbet’s chilling shade
Ceases darkly to enfold you,
And the angel who enrolled you
As a master of the trade
Of assassination sadly
Blots the record he has made,
And your name and title paints
In the calendar of saints;
When the devils, dancing madly
In the midmost Hell, are very
Multitudinously merry⁠—
Then beware, beware, beware!
Nemesis is everywhere!
You shall hear her at your back,
And, your hunted visage turning,
Fancy that her eyes are burning
Like a tiger’s on your track!
You shall hear her in the breeze
Whispering to summer trees.
You shall hear her calling, calling
To your spirit through the storm
When the giant billows form
And the splintered lightning, falling
Down the heights of Heaven, appalling,
Splendors all the tossing seas!
On your bed at night reclining,
Stars into your chamber shining
As they roll around the Pole,
None their purposes divining,
Shall appear to search your soul,
And to gild the mark of Cain
That burns into your tortured brain!
And the dead man’s eyes shall ever
Meet your own wherever you,
Desperate, shall turn you to,
And you shall escape them never!

By your heritage of guilt;
By the blood that you have spilt;
By the Law that you have broken;
By the terrible red token
That you bear upon your brow;
By the awful sentence spoken
And irrevocable vow
Which consigns you to a living
Death and to the unforgiving
Furies who avenge your crime
Through the periods of time;
By that dread eternal doom
Hinted in your future’s gloom,
As the flames infernal tell
Of their power and perfection
In their wavering reflection
On the battlements of Hell;
By the mercy you denied,
I condemn your guilty soul
In your body to abide,
Like a serpent in a hole!

The Sunset Gun

Off Santa Cruz the western wave
Was crimson as with blood:
The sun was sinking to his grave
Beneath that angry flood.

Sir Walter Turnbull, brave and stout,
Then shouted, “Ho! lads; run⁠—
The powder and the wad bring out
To fire the sunset gun.

“That punctual orb did ne’er omit
To keep, by land or sea,
Its every engagement; it
Shall never wait for me.”

Behold the black-mouthed cannon stand,
Ready with charge and prime,
The lanyard in the gunner’s hand.
Sir Walter waits the time.

The glowing orb sinks in the sea,
And clouds of steam aspire,
Then fade, and the horizon’s free.
Sir Walter thunders: “Fire!”

The gunner pulls⁠—the lanyard parts
And not a sound ensues.
The beating of ten thousand hearts
Was heard at Santa Cruz!

Off Santa Cruz the western wave
Was crimson as with blood;
The sun, with visage stern and grave,
Came back from out the flood.

The Viduate Dame

’Tis the widow of Thomas Blythe,
And she goeth upon the spree,
And red are cheeks of the bystanders
For her acts are light and free.

In a seven-ounce costume
The widow of Thomas Blythe,
Y-perched high on the window ledge,
The difficult can-can tryeth.

Ten constables they essay
To bate the dame’s halloing.
With the widow of Thomas Blythe
Their hands are overflowing.

And they cry: “Call the National Guard
To quell this parlous muss⁠—
For all of the widows of Thomas Blythe
Are upon the spree and us!”

O long shall the eerie tale be told
By that posse’s surviving tithe;
And with tears bedewed he’ll sing this rude
Ballàd of the widow of Thomas Blythe.

Four of a Kind

Robert F. Morrow
Dear man! although a stranger and a foe
To soft affection’s humanizing glow;
Although untaught how manly hearts may throb
With more desires than the desire to rob;
Although as void of tenderness as wit,
And owning nothing soft but Maurice Schmitt;
Although polluted, shunned and in disgrace,
You fill me with a passion to embrace!
Attentive to your look, your smile, your beck,
I watch and wait to fall upon your neck.
Lord of my love, and idol of my hope,
You are my Valentine, and I’m
A Rope.

Alfred Clarke, Jr.
Illustrious son of an illustrious sire⁠—
Entrusted with the duty to cry “Fire!”
And call the engines out, exert your power
With care. When, looking from your lofty tower,
You see a ruddy light on every wall,
Pause for a moment ere you sound the call:
It may be from a fire, it may be, too,
From good men’s blushes when they think of you.

Judge Rutledge
Sultan of Stupids! with enough of brains
To go indoors in all uncommon rains,
But not enough to stay there when the storm
Is past. When all the world is dry and warm,
In irking comfort, lamentably gay,
Keeping the evil tenor of your way,
You walk abroad, sweet, beautiful and smug,
And Justice hears you with her wonted shrug,
Lifts her broad bandage half-an-inch and keeps
One eye upon you while the other weeps.

W. H. L. Barnes
Happy the man who sin’s proverbial wage
Receives on the instalment plan⁠—in age.
For him the bulldog pistol’s honest bark
Has naught of terror in its blunt remark.
He looks with calmness on the gleaming steel⁠—
If e’er it touched his heart he did not feel:
Superior hardness turned its point away,
Though urged by fond affinity to stay;
His bloodless veins ignored the futile stroke,
And moral mildew kept the cut in cloak.
Happy the man, I say, to whom the wage
Of sin has been commuted into age.
Yet not quite happy⁠—hark, that horrid cry!⁠—
His cruel mirror wounds him in the eye!


Stanford and Huntington, so long at outs,
Kissed and made up. If you have any doubts
Dismiss them, for I saw them do it, man;
And then⁠—why, then I clutched my purse and ran.

A Vision of Climate

I dreamed that I was poor and ill and sad,
Broken in hope and weary of my life;
My ventures all miscarrying⁠—naught had
For all my labor in the heat and strife.
And in my heart some certain thoughts were rife
Of an unsummoned exit. As I lay
Considering my bitter state, I cried:
“Alas! that hither I did ever stray.
Better in some fair country to have died
Than live in such a land, where Fortune never
(Unless one be successful) crowns Endeavor.”

Then, even as I lamented, lo! there came
A troop of Presences⁠—I knew not whence
Nor what they were: thought cannot rightly name
What’s known through spiritual evidence,
Reported not by gross material sense.
“Why come ye here?” I seemed to cry (though naught
My sleeping tongue did utter) to the first⁠—
“What are ye?⁠—with what woeful message fraught?
Ye have a ghastly look, as ye had burst
Some sepulcher in memory. Weird creatures,
I’m sure I’d know you if ye had but features.”

Some subtle organ noted the reply
(Inaudible to ear of flesh the tone):
“The Finest Climate in the World am I,
From Siskiyou to San Diego known⁠—
From the Sierra to the sea. The zone
Called semi-tropical I’ve pulled about
And placed it where it does most good, I trust.
I shake my never-failing bounty out
Alike upon the just and the unjust.”
“That’s very true,” said I, “but when ’tis shaken
My share by the unjust is ever taken.”

“Permit me,” it resumed, “now to present
My eldest son, the Champagne Atmosphere,
And others to rebuke your discontent⁠—
The Mammoth Squash, Strawberry All the Year,
The fair No Lightning⁠—flashing only here⁠—
The Wholesome Earthquake and Italian Sky,
With its Unstriking Sun; and last, not least,
The Compos Mentis Dog. Now, ingrate, try
To bring a better stomach to the feast:
When Nature makes a dance and pays the piper,
To be unhappy is to be a viper!”

“Why, yet,” said I, “with all your blessings fine
(And Heaven forbid that I should speak them ill)
I’m poor and ill and sorrowful. Ye shine
With more of splendor than of heat: for still,
Although my will is warm, my bones are chill.”
“Then warm you with enthusiasm’s blaze⁠—
Fortune waits not on toil,” they cried; “O then,
Join the wild chorus clamoring our praise⁠—
Throw up your beaver and throw down your pen!”
“Begone!” I shouted. They bewent, a-smirking,
And I, awakening, fell straight a-working.

A “Mass” Meeting

It was a solemn rite as e’er
Was seen by mortal man.
The celebrants, the people there,
Were all Republican.

There Estee bent his grizzled head,
And General Dimond, too,
And one⁠—’twas Reddick, someone said,
Though no one clearly knew.

I saw the priest, white-robed and tall
(Assistant, Father Stow)⁠—
He was the pious man men call
Dan Burns of Mexico.

Ah, ’twas a high and holy rite
As anyone could swear.
“What does it mean?” I asked a wight
Who knelt apart in prayer.

“A mass for the repose,” he said,
“Of Colonel Markham’s”⁠—“What,
Is gallant Colonel Markham dead?
’Tis sad, ’tis sad, God wot!”

“A mass”⁠—repeated he, and rose
To go and kneel among
The worshipers⁠—“for the repose
Of Colonel Markham’s tongue.”

The New Dennis

Lo! Kearney, rising on his hinder legs,
For higher rates of freight and passage begs.
Time was when Dennis talked another way⁠—
Because he drove an opposition dray.
Thus, soon or late, to override the laws
All common carriers make common cause,
Pool the foul issues of their dirty lungs,
Lick each other with fraternal tongues.
Crocker and Kearney, men of equal leather,
Arcades ambo⁠—they are pigs together.

A Rational Anthem

My country, ’tis of thee,
Sweet land of felony,
Of thee I sing⁠—
Land where my fathers fried
Young witches and applied
Whips to the Quaker’s hide
And made him spring.

My knavish country, thee,
Land where the thief is free,
Thy laws I love;
I love thy thieving bills
That tap the people’s tills;
I love thy mob whose will’s
All laws above.

Let Federal employees
And rings rob all they please,
The whole year long.
Let office-holders make
Their piles and judges rake
Our coin. For Jesus’ sake,
Let’s all go wrong!


“He’s no good citizen!” the crowd
Of politicians cries aloud.

“How so?” says one.

“Because⁠—why, curse
The man! while we deplete his purse
Some air contentedly he hums,
Or twiddles his incivic thumbs.”

“What more could you desire?”

“The whelp!
We want him to stand in and help.”

Two crowds contend, his purse to twist
Away⁠—pray which should he assist?”

“It matters not whose hand unsacks
His shekels, for we all go snacks.”

Famine in Prosperity

Two monks upon a field of battle
Observed some lean and hungry cattle.
Said one: “But little feed is growing
Where Death so lately has been mowing.”

Replied the other, gravely eying
The piles of dead about them lying:
“All flesh is grass⁠—I’m quite confounded
That cows should starve by hay surrounded.”

An Epigrammatist

Once Hector Stuart in his tersest mood
Took up his pencil. “By the holy rood!”
He cried, “I’ll write an epigram.” He did⁠—
Nay, by the holy mile his pencil slid.

Fig Leaf

(A Definition)

An artist’s trick by which the Nude’s
Protected from the eyes of prudes,
Which else with their peculiar flame
Might scorch the canvass in its frame,
Or melt the bronze, or burn to lime
The marble, in a minute’s time.
For sparks are sometimes seen to dance
Where falls a dame’s offended glance,
And little curls of smoke to rise
From fingers veiling virgin eyes.

O prudes I know you⁠—once you made
Among us here a fool crusade
Against some casts from the antique,
Great, naked, natural and Greek,
Whereto you flocked, a prurient crush,
And diligently tried to blush,
Half strangled in the vain attempt
Till someone (may the wretch be hemped!)
Depressed his lordly length of ear
Your loud lubricity to hear,
Then took his chisel up and dealt
At Art a blow below the belt.
Insulted, crimson with the shame,
Her cheeks aglow, her eyes aflame,
The goddess spread her pinions bright,
Sprang, and the town was left in night!

Since then in vain the painter toils:
His canvass still repels the oils.
In vain with melancholy sighs
His burin the engraver plies;
Lines multiply beneath his hand⁠—
Their meaning none can understand.
With stubborn clay and unsubdued.
The sculptor shapes his fancies crude,
Unable to refine the work,
And makes a god look like a Turk.
To marble grown, or metal, still
The monstrous image makes him ill,
Till, crazed with rage, the damaged lot
He breaks, or sells to Irving Scott.

For President, Leland Stanford

Mahomet Stanford, with covetous stare,
Gazed on a vision surpassingly fair:
Far on the desert’s remote extreme
A mountain of gold with a mellow gleam
Reared its high pinnacles into the sky,
The work of mirage to delude the eye.
Pixley Pasha, at the Prophet’s feet
Piously licking them, swearing them sweet,
Ventured, observing his master’s glance,
To beg that he order the mountain’s advance.
Mahomet Stanford exerted his will,
Commanding: “In Allah’s name, hither, hill!”
Never an inch the mountain came.
Mahomet Stanford, with face aflame,
Lifted his foot and kicked, alack!
Pixley Pasha on the end of the back.
Mollified thus and smiling free,
He said: “Since the mountain won’t come to me,
I’ll go to the mountain.” With infinite pains,
Camels in caravans, negroes in trains,
Warriors, workmen, women, and fools,
Food and water and mining tools
He gathered about him, a mighty array,
And the journey began at the close of day.
All night they traveled⁠—at early dawn
Many a wearisome league had gone.
Morning broke fair with a golden sheen,
Mountain, alas, was nowhere seen!
Mahomet Stanford pounded his breast,
Pixley Pasha he thus addressed:
“Dog of mendacity, cheat and slave,
May jackasses sing o’er your grandfather’s grave!”

For Mayor

O Abner Doble⁠—whose “catarrhal name”
Budd of the same might envy⁠—’tis a rough
Rude thing to say, but it is plain enough
Your name is to be sneezed at: its acclaim
Will “fill the speaking trump of future fame”
With an impeded utterance⁠—a puff
Suggesting that a pinch or two of snuff
Would clear the tube and somewhat disinflame.
Nay, Abner Doble, you’ll not get from me
My voice and influence: I’ll cheer instead,
Some other man; for when my voice ascends a
Tall pinnacle of praise, and at high C
Sustains a chosen name, it shan’t be said
My influence is naught but influenza.

A Mine for Reformers

When God resolved to make the world
He gathered all the matter
In Chaos that was mixed and whirled
In unassorted scatter.

He separated that from this,
And tagged on each a label,
Naming all kinds of substances
As far as he was able.

He lacked of learning, though, enough
To execute his aim, for
There still remained a lot of stuff
He hadn’t any name for.

And this (the world completed) lies
Without concatenation⁠—
All unassorted⁠—and supplies
Ideals for all Creation.

In Pickle

The journals say that the embalming done
To Garfield’s body badly was begun,
Faultily finished all too soon⁠—in short
Was of a most unsatisfactory sort.
Unsatisfactory? How so? To whom?
Has the long sullen silence of the tomb
At last been broken? Is rebellion’s head
Reared in the subject province of the dead?
Unsatisfactory, forsooth! Who’d wish
To satisfy, in salting it, a fish?
With spices when the conscious cook supplies
The autumnal mince-meat for the winter pies
He makes no question if the meat prefer
Clove, cinnamon or pepper, sage or myrrh.
“There was,” says Chowder if a clam upbraid,
“No thought of pleasing thee when I was made.”
What! shall the dead with impudence complain
Of how we’ve potted each inert remain?⁠—
The pickle criticise and even condemn,
As if the purpose were to pleasure them?
Their cure they rightly canvass in disease;
We’ll cure them after in what way we please.

With blazing eulogies in crowded halls,
And mourning emblems blackening the walls;
With gorgeous funerals, both at the spot
Where you were buried and where you were not⁠—
A dummy funeral’s inutile show
Fifty to manifest a dummy woe;
With black-ruled journals, selling all at twice
The customary uneventful price;
With guarded tomb and monument as fine
As any light-house on the ocean line⁠—
Garfield, if still you are dissatisfied
You might as profitably not have died.
So you’re complaining⁠—vive la bagatelle!
The brine, no doubt, was weak, and cheap as well,
Got for a song an undertaker sang
(We paid him for it through the nose⁠—the pang
More keen than all our sorrow.) Even so,
Your bones that served us for a public show
Outlast already our unsalted woe.

James Montague, Poet

’Tis said he wrote with wondrous ease,
And that is here conceded;
But anybody, if he please,
Can write such verse as he did.
Although for James ’twas easy quite,
Another’s difficulty might
In self-defense be pleaded.

A Cheating Preacher

Munhall, to have my soul you bravely try,
Although, to save my soul, I can’t say why.
’Tis naught to you, to me however much⁠—
Why, bless it! you might save a million such,
Yet lose your own; for still the “means of grace”
That you employ to turn us from the place
By the arch-enemy of souls frequented
Are those which to ensnare us he invented!
I do not say you utter falsehoods⁠—I
Would scorn to give to ministers the lie:
They cannot fight⁠—their calling has estopped it.
True, I did not persuade them to adopt it.
But, Munhall, when you say the Devil dwells
In all the breasts of all the infidels⁠—
Making a lot of individual Hells,
You talk as I should if some world I trod
Where lying is acceptable to God.
I don’t at all object⁠—forbid it Heaven!⁠—
That your discourse you temperately leaven
With airy reference to wicked souls
Cursing impenitent on glowing coals,
Nor quarrel with your fancy, blithe and fine,
Which represents the wickedest as mine.
Each ornament of style my spirit eases:
The subject saddens, but the manner pleases.
But when you “deal damnation round” ’twere sweet
To think hereafter that you did not cheat.
Deal, and let all accept what you allot ’em;
But, blast you! you are dealing from the bottom!

A Crocodile

Nay, Peter Robertson, ’tis not for you
To blubber o’er Max Taubles for he’s dead.
By Heaven! my hearty, if you only knew
How better is a grave-worm in the head
Than brains like yours⁠—how far more decent, too,
A tomb in far Korea than a bed
Where Peter lies with Peter, you would covet
His happier state and, dying, learn to love it.

In the recesses of the silent tomb
No Maunderings of yours disturb the peace.
Your mental bag-pipe, droning like the gloom
Of Hades audible, perforce must cease
From troubling further; and that crack o’ doom,
Your mouth, shaped like a long bow, shall release
In vain such shafts of wit as it can utter⁠—
The ear of death can’t even hear them flutter.

The American Party

Oh, Marcus D. Boruck, me hearty,
I sympathize wid ye, poor lad!
A man that’s shot out of his party
Is mighty onlucky, bedad!
An’ the sowl o’ that man is sad.

But, Marcus, gossoon, ye desarve it⁠—
Ye know for yerself that ye do,
For ye j’ined not intendin’ to sarve it,
But hopin’ to make it sarve you,
Though the roll of its members wuz two.

The other wuz Pixley, an’ “Surely,”
Ye said, “he’s a kite that wull sail.”
An’ so ye hung till him securely,
Enactin’ the role of a tail.
But there wuzn’t the ghost of a gale!

But the party to-day has behind it
A powerful backin’, I’m told;
For just enough Irish have j’ined it
(An’ I’m m’anin’ to be enrolled)
To kick ye out into the cold.

It’s hard on ye, darlint, I’m thinkin’⁠—
So young⁠—so American, too,
Wid bypassers grinnin’ an’ winkin’,
An’ sayin’, wid ref’rence to you:
“Get onto the murtherin’ Joo!”

Republicans never will take ye⁠—
They had ye for many a year;
An’ Democrats⁠—angels forsake ye!⁠—
If ever ye come about here
We’ll brand ye and scallop yer ear!


Though war-signs fail in time of peace, they say,
Two awful portents gloom the public mind:
All Mexico is arming for the fray,
And Colonel Mark McDonald has resigned!
We know not by what instinct he divined
The coming trouble⁠—maybe, like the steed
Described by Job, he smelled the fight afar.
Howe’er it be, he left, and for that deed
Is an aspirant to the G.A.R.
When cannon flame along the Rio Grande
A citizen’s commission will be handy.

The Gates Ajar

The Day of Judgment spread its glare
O’er continents and seas.
The graves cracked open everywhere,
Like pods of early peas.

Up to the Court of Heaven sped
The souls of all mankind;
Republicans were at the head
And Democrats behind.

Reub Lloyd was there before the tube
Of Gabriel could call:
The dead in Christ rise first, and Reub
Had risen first of all.

He sat beside the Throne of Flame
As, to the trumpet’s sound,
Four statesmen of the Party came
And ranged themselves around⁠—

Pure spirits shining like the sun,
From taint and blemish free⁠—
Great William Stow was there for one,
And George A. Knight for three.

Souls less indubitably white
Approached with anxious air,
Judge Blake at head of them by right
Of having been a Mayor.

His ermine he had donned again,
Long laid away in gums.
’Twas soiled a trifle by the stains
Of politicians’ thumbs.

Then Knight addressed the Judge of Heaven:
“Your Honor, would it trench
On custom here if Blake were given
A seat upon the Bench?”

’Twas done. “Tom Shannon!” Peter cried.
He came, without ado,
In forma pauperis was tried,
And was acquitted, too!

Stow rose, remarking: “I concur.”
Lloyd added: “That suits us.
I move Tom’s nomination, sir,
Be made unanimous.”

To a Bully

They say, George Perry, you’re a lawyer. Well,
At least that’s your profession, but in fact,
Law’s like religion (though, the truth to tell,
The likeness is not otherwise exact)
In this, that in them both, my learned brother,
Profession’s one thing, practice quite another.

But you do practice, for the other day
I saw you mentioned in a case in court,
Cross-questioning a witness. I must say
You did it as a cat that loves to sport
With an unworthy mouse all too unwilling
To accept the justice of repeated killing.

This witness, so the tale is told to me,
Fatigued of your attempt upon his life⁠—
I mean his reputation⁠—made him free
With yours, affirming that you beat your wife.
If that is true (they say that it upset you)
She must be monstrous cowardly to let you!

You hold it right to torture men who come
(Heaven knows unwillingly) to aid the law,
So that by terror of your tongue made dumb
They can’t tell rightly what they heard or saw,
“Impeaching credibility,” you call it
When, seeing an honest looking head, you maul it.

Well, witnesses are fallible⁠—involved
Sometimes in scandals; and ’tis true that they
Are factors in the problem to be solved,
The judge and jury led by what they say.
But lawyers⁠—they are factors too, their problem
Being foolish clients and how best to rob them.

They’ve more to say than witnesses, and more
Important ’tis that they be truthful, too.
Were’t not, then, right the witness take the floor
And mercilessly cross-examine you?
Were truth your jewel (bless us! what a setting!)
I’ve certain questions that would set you sweating!

Nay, don’t be fidgeting; to ask them here
Were perilous, for I no license hold
To be a blackguard; and no judge is near
To jail you for replies too sharp and bold.
Besides, it were no easy task to shame you,
And till I’m paid a fee I’ll not defame you.

You see I lack advantages that you
Possess, and therefore cannot be so brave.
Who has, and uses, them’s respected; who
Has not, yet bullies, is a scurril knave⁠—
Though, faith, the difference is narrow, very,
By which a knave’s distinguished from a Perry.

You served, if rightly I remember, once
A term in the State Legislature, where
You figured merely as a harmless dunce,
Save when, ambitious, in the larger air
Of rhetoric you held the floor a season
To give yourself for sin sufficient reason.

Thus a great bird whose nature is in doubt
With difficulty rises from the earth,
His wide wings spreading with an effort out,
And shows by his unconscionable girth
E’er yet the agitated air insult your
Resentful nose, he’s but a glutted vulture.

Touching these matters I would fain inquire
If I but had you on the witness-grill,
Over the slow but efficacious fire
Of cross-examination; and I’d kill
The worm with quite insensible gradation,
And quench the fire with great deliberation.

What, you’re no worse than other lawyers? Well,
I never said you were, my little man.
Do you suppose I run this private Hell
For one small soul? ’Tis your entire clan
I’m trying to barbecue, despite their pleadings.
Get out, you brat! you hamper the proceedings!

A Land Fight

Great Dewey, mightiest of men,
To sink or take a ship,
Shows the white flag and feather when
He hears the guns of Grip.

Great Grip! Great Dewey! Oh, my heart,
There’s less tempestuous weather
When they are leagues and leagues apart
Than when they get together.

The air is full of uniform⁠—
Gold lace with buttons blent!⁠—
And then a voice succeeds the storm:
“I’ve downed that festive gent.”

Long shall the tale be told by brave
And high-born cavaliers,
And old Montojo from the grave
Shall rise with all his ears.


Said Rockefeller, senior, to his boy:
“Be good and you shall have eternal joy.”
Said Rockefeller, junior, to his dad:
“I never do a single thing that’s bad.”
Said Rockefeller, senior⁠—long gone gray
In service at the altar: “Ever pray.”
And Rockefeller, junior, being bid.
Upon his knees and neighbors ever did.


Californians are asking themselves how Joaquin Miller will make the trees grow which he proposes to plant in the form of a Maltese cross on Goat Island, in San Francisco Bay.
New York Graphic

You may say they won’t grow, and say they’ll decay⁠—
Say it again till you’re sick of the say,
Get up on your ear, blow your blaring bazoo
And hire a hall to proclaim it; and you
May stand on a stump with a lifted hand
As a pine may stand or a redwood stand,
And stick to your story and cheek it through.
But I point with pride to the far divide
Where the Snake from its groves is seen to glide⁠—
To Mariposa’s arboreal suit,
And the shaggy shoulders of Shasta Butte,
And the feathered firs of Siskiyou;
And I swear as I sit on my marvelous hair⁠—
I roll my marvelous eyes and swear,
And sneer, and ask where would your forests be
To-day if it hadn’t been for me!
Then I rise tip-toe, with a brow of brass,
Like a bully boy with an eye of glass;
I look at my gum sprouts, red and blue,
And I say it loud and I say it low:
“They know their man and you bet they’ll grow!”

A Holiday

’Tis Master Barry, editor;
He takes an holiday.
Now wherefore, venerable sir,
So resolutely gay?

He lifts his head, he laughs aloud,
Odzounds! ’tis drear to see!
“Because the Boodle-Scribbler crowd
Will soon be far from me.

“Full many a year I’ve striven well
To freeze the caitiffs out
By making this good town a Hell,
But still they hang about.

“They maken mouths and eke they grin
At the dollar limit game;
And they are holpen in that sin
By many a wicked dame.

“In sylvan bowers hence I’ll dwell
My bruised mind to ease.
Farewell, ye urban scenes, farewell!
Hail, unfamiliar trees!”

Forth then did Master Barry hie,
And all the country folk
Besought him that he come not nigh
The deadly poison oak!

He smiled a cheerful smile (the day
Was straightway overcast)⁠—
The poison oak along his way
Was blighted as he passed!


When Dr. Charles O’Donnell died
They sank a box with him inside.

The plate with his initials three
Was simply graven⁠—“C. O’ D.”

That night two demons of the Pit
Adown the coal-hole shunted it.

Ten million million leagues it fell,
Alighting at the gate of Hell.

Nick looked upon it with surprise,
A night-storm darkening his eyes.

“They’ve sent this rubbish, C.O.D.⁠—
I’ll never pay a cent!” said he.

Judex Judicatus

Judge Armstrong, when the poor have sought your aid,
To be released from vows that they have made
In haste, and leisurely repented, you,
As stern as Rhadamanthus (Minos too,
And Aeacus) have drawn your fierce brows down
And petrified them with a moral frown!
With iron-faced rigor you have made them run
The gauntlet of publicity⁠—each Hun
Or Vandal of the public press allowed
To throw their households open to the crowd
And bawl their secret bickerings aloud.
When Wealth before you suppliant appears,
Bang! go the doors and open fly your ears!
The blinds are drawn, the lights diminished burn,
Lest eyes too curious should look and learn
That gold refines not, sweetens not, a life
Of conjugal brutality and strife⁠—
That vice is vulgar, though it gilded shine
Upon the curve of a judicial spine.
The veiled complainant’s whispered evidence,
The plain collusion and the no defense,
The sealed exhibits and the secret plea,
The unrecorded and unseen decree,
The midnight signature and⁠—chink! chink! chink!⁠—
Nay, pardon, upright Judge, I did but think
I heard that sound abhorred of honest men;
No doubt it was the scratching of your pen.

O California! long-enduring land,
Where Judges fawn upon the Golden Hand,
Proud of such service to that rascal thing
As slaves would blush to render to a king⁠—
Judges, of judgment destitute and heart,
Of conscience conscious only by the smart
From the recoil (with caution-bump enlarged)
Of duty accidentally discharged⁠—
Invoking still a “song o’ sixpence” from
The Scottish fiddle of each lusty palm⁠—
Thy Judges, California, skilled to play
This silent music, through the livelong day
Perform obsequious before the rich,
And still the more they scratch the more they itch!

On the Wedding of an Aeronaut

Aeronaut, you’re fairly caught,
Despite your bubble’s leaven:
Out of the skies a lady’s eyes
Have brought you down to Heaven!

No more, no more you’ll freely soar
Above the grass and gravel:
Henceforth you’ll walk⁠—and she will chalk
The line that you’re to travel!

A Hasty Inference

The Devil one day, coming up from the Pit
All grimy with perspiration,
Applied to Saint Peter and begged he’d admit
Him a moment for consultation.

The Saint showed him in where the Master reclined
On the throne where petitioners sought him;
Both bowed, and the Evil One opened his mind
Concerning the business that brought him:

“For ten million years I’ve been kept in a stew
Because you have thought me immoral;
And though I have had my opinion of you,
You’ve had the best end of the quarrel.

“But now⁠—well, I venture to hope that the past
With its misunderstandings we’ll smother;
And you, sir, and I, sir, be throned here at last
As equals, the one to the other.”

“Indeed!” said the Master (I cannot convey
A sense of his tone by mere letters)
“What makes you presume you’ll be bidden to stay
Up here on such terms with your betters?”

“Why, sure you can’t mean it!” said Satan. “I’ve seen
How Stanford and Crocker you’ve nourished,
And Huntington⁠—bless me! the three like a green
Umbrageous great bay-tree have flourished.

They are fat, they are rolling in gold, they command
All sources and well-springs of power;
You’ve given them houses, you’ve given them land⁠—
Before them the righteous all cower.”

“What of that?” “What of that?” cried the Father of Sin;
“Why, I thought when I saw you were winking
At crimes such as theirs that perhaps you had been
Converted to my way of thinking.”

A Voluptuary

Who’s this that lispeth in the thickening throng
Which crowds to claim distinction in my song?
Fresh from “the palms and temples of the South,”
The mixed aromas quarrel in his mouth:
Of orange blossoms this the lingering gale,
And that the odor of a spicy tale.
Sir, in thy pleasure-dome down by the sea
(No finer one did Kubla Khan decree)
Where, Master of the Revels, thou dost stand
With joys and mysteries on either hand,
Dost keep a poet to report the rites
And sing the tale of those Elysian nights?
Faith, sir, I’d like the place if not too young.
I’m no great bard, but⁠—I can hold my tongue!

Ad Cattonum

I know not, Mr. Catton, who you are,
Nor very clearly why; but you go far
To show that you are many things beside
A Chilean Consul with a tempting hide;
But what they are I hardly could explain
Without afflicting you with mental pain.
Your name (gods! what a name the muse to woo⁠—
Suggesting cats, and hinting kittens, too!)
Points to an origin⁠—perhaps Maltese,
Perhaps Angoran⁠—where the wicked cease
From fiddling, and the animals that grow
The strings that groan to the tormenting bow
Live undespoiled of their insides, resigned
To give their name and nature to mankind.
With Chilean birth your name but poorly tallies;
The test is⁠—Did you ever sell tamales?

It matters very little, though, my boy,
If you’re from Chile or from Illinois;
You can’t, because you serve a foreign land,
Spit with impunity on ours, expand,
Cock-turkeywise, and strut with blind conceit,
All heedless of the hearts beneath your feet,
Fling falsehoods as a sower scatters grain
And, for security, invoke disdain.
Sir, there are laws that men of sense observe,
No matter whence they come nor whom they serve⁠—
The laws of courtesy; and these forbid
You to malign, as recently you did,
As servant of another State, a State
Wherein your duties all are concentrate;
Branding its Ministers as rogues⁠—in short,
Inviting cuffs as suitable retort.

Chileno or American, ’tis one⁠—
Of any land a citizen, or none⁠—
If like a new Thersites here you rail,
Loading with libels every western gale,
You’ll feel the cudgel on your scurvy hump
Impinging with a salutary thump.
’Twill make you civil or ’twill make you jump!

The National Guardsman

I’m a gorgeous golden hero
And my trade is taking life.
Hear the twittle-twittle-tweero
Of my sibilating fife
And the rub-a-dub-a-dum
Of my big bass drum!
I’m an escort strong and bold,
The Grand Army to protect.
My countenance is cold
And my attitude erect
I’m a Californian Guard
And my banner flies aloft,
But the stones are O, so hard!
And my feet are O, so soft!

The Barking Weasel

You say, John Irish, Mr. Taylor hath
A painted beard. Quite likely that is true,
And sure ’tis natural you spend your wrath
On what has been least merciful to you.
By Taylor’s chin, if I am not mistaken,
You like a rat have recently been shaken.

To wear a beard of artificial hue
May be or this or that, I know not what;
But, faith, ’tis better to be black-and-blue
In beard from dallying with brush and pot
Than to be so in body from the beating
That hardy rogues get when detected cheating.

You’re whacked about the mazzard rather more
Of late than any other man in town.
Certes your vulnerable back is sore
And tender, too, your corrigible crown.
In truth your whole periphery discloses
More vivid colors than a bed of posies!

You call it glory! Put your tongue in sheath!⁠—
Scars got in battle, even if on the breast,
May be a shameful record if, beneath,
A robber heart a lawless strife attest.
John Sullivan had wounds, and Paddy Ryan⁠—
Nay, as to that, even Masten has, and Bryan.

’Tis willingly conceded you’ve a knack
At holding the attention of the town;
The worse for you when you have on your back
What did not grow there⁠—prithee put it down!
For pride kills thrift, and you lack board and lodging,
Even while the brickbats of renown you’re dodging.

A Rear Elevation

He can speak with his eyes, his hands, arms, legs, body⁠—nay, with his very bones, for he turned the broad of his back upon us in “Conrad,” the other night, and his shoulder-blades spoke to us a volume of hesitation, fear, submission, desperation⁠—everything which could haunt a man at the moment of inevitable detection.
A “Dramatic Critic.”

Once Moses (in Scripture the story is told)
Entreated the favor God’s face to behold.
Compassion divine the petition denied
Lest vision be blasted and body be fried.
Yet this much, the Bible informs us, took place:
Jehovah, concealing His terrible face,
Protruded His rear from behind a great rock,2
And edification ensued without shock.
So godlike Salvini, lest worshipers die,
Averting the blaze of his withering eye,
Tempers his terrors and shows to the pack
Of feeble adorers the broad of his back.
The fires of their altars, which, paled and declined
Before him, burn all the more brightly behind.
O happy adorers, to care not at all
Where fawning may tickle or lip-service fall!

In Upper San Francisco

I heard that Heaven was bright and fair,
And politicians dwelt not there.

’Twas said by knowing ones that they
Were in the Elsewhere⁠—so to say.

So, waking from my last long sleep,
I took my place among the sheep.

I passed the gate⁠—though angels eyed
Me sharply as I stepped inside.

The new Jerusalem⁠—ah me,
It was a sorry sight to see!

The mansions of the blest were there,
And mostly they were fine and fair;

But O, such streets!⁠—so deep and wide
And all unpaved, from side to side!

And in a public square there grew
A blighted tree, most sad to view.

From off its trunk the bark was ripped⁠—
Its very branches all were stripped!

An angel perched upon the fence
With all the grace of indolence.

“Celestial bird,” I cried in pain,
“What vandal wrought this wreck? Explain.”

He raised his eyelids as if tired:
“What is a Vandal?” he inquired.

“This is the Tree of Life. ’Twas stripped
By Durst and Siebe, who have shipped

“The bark across the Jordan⁠—see?⁠—
And sold it to a tannery.”

“Alas,” I sighed, “their old-time tricks!
That pavement, too, of golden bricks⁠—

“They’ve gobbled that?” But with a scowl,
“You greatly wrong them,” said the fowl:

“ ’Twas Gilleran did that, I fear⁠—
Head of the Street Department here.”

“What! what!” cried I⁠—“you let such chaps
Come here? You’ve Satan, too, perhaps.”

“We had him, yes, but off he went,
Yet showed some purpose to repent;

“But since your priests and parsons filled
The place with those their preaching killed”⁠—

(Here Siebe passed along with Durst,
Psalming as if their lungs would burst)⁠—

“He swears his foot no more shall press
Our soil⁠—’tis cloven, though, I guess.

“In short, the fellow’s out on strike⁠—
But devils are not all alike.”

Lo! Gilleran came down the street,
Pressing the soil with broad, flat feet!


There were brave men, someone has truly said,
Before Atrides (those were mostly dead
Behind him) and long ages ere you were
Actaeon lived, Nimrod and Bahram-Gur.
In strength and speed and daring they excelled:
The stag they overtook, the lion felled.
Ah, yes, great hunters flourished before you,
And⁠—for Munchausen lived⁠—great talkers too.
There’ll be no more; there’s much to kill, but⁠—well,
You have left nothing in the world to tell!

The New Decalogue

Have but one God: thy knees were sore
If bent in prayer to three or four.

Adore no images save those
The coinage of thy country shows.

Take not the Name in vain. Direct
Thy swearing unto some effect.

Thy hand from Sunday work be held⁠—
Work not at all unless compelled.

Honor thy parents, and perchance
Their wills thy fortunes may advance.

Kill not⁠—death liberates thy foe
From persecution’s constant woe.

Kiss not thy neighbor’s wife. Of course
There’s no objection to divorce.

To steal were folly, for ’tis plain
In cheating there is greater gain.

Bear not false witness. Shake your head
And say that you have “heard it said.”

Who stays to covet ne’er will catch
An opportunity to snatch.

Ultra Crepidam

I think there must be some misunderstanding regarding my reference to the Catholic Church in the Philippines in my address at the Stanford University.
Gen. Funston

A misunderstanding? Why, that’s a great scandal!
So stick to the weapon you know how to handle.
The tongue is a very uncertain convincer;
Don’t draw it at all⁠—keep it in, keep it in, sir.
I never have heard it was any great labor
To dig out your meaning when swinging your sabre.
Even dull Filipino (ah, green be the bed of him!)
Can manage to get it somehow through the head of him.

Censor Literarum

So, Parson Stebbins, you’ve released your chin
To say that here, and here, we press-folk ail.
’Tis a great thing an editor to skin
And hang his faulty pelt upon a nail
(If over-eared, it has, at least, no tail)
And, for an admonition against sin,
Point out its maculations with a rod,
And act, in short, the gentleman of God.

’Twere needless cruelty to spoil your sport
By comment, critical or merely rude;
But you, too, have, according to report,
Despite your posing as a holy dude,
Imperfect spiritual pulchritude
For so severe a judge. May’t please the court,
We shall appeal and take our case at once
Before that higher court, a taller dunce.

Sir, what were you without the press? What spreads
The fame of your existence, once a week,
From the Pacific Mail dock to the Heads,
Warning the people you’re about to wreak
Upon the human ear your Sunday freak?⁠—
Whereat the most betake them to their beds,
Though some prefer to slumber in the pews
And nod assent to your hypnotic views.

Unhappy man! can you not still your tongue
When (like a luckless brat afflict with worms,
By cruel fleas intolerably stung,
Or with a pang in its small lap) it squirms?
Still must it vulgarize your feats of lung?
There were no better preachering beneath
The sun if you’d naught there behind your teeth.

Borrowed Brains

Writer folk across the bay
Take the pains to see and say⁠—
All their upward palms in air:
“Joaquin Miller’s cut his hair!”
Hasten, hasten, writer folk⁠—
In the gutters rake and poke,
If by God’s exceeding grace
You may hit upon the place
Where the barber threw at length
Samson’s literary strength.
Find it, find it if you can;
Happy the successful man!
He has but to put one strand
In his beaver’s inner band
And his intellect will soar
As it never did before!
While an inch of it remains
He will noted be for brains,
And at last (’twill so befall)
Fit to cease to write at all.

Ye Fyghtynge Seventh

It is the gallant Seventh⁠—
It fyghteth faste and free!
God wot the where it fyghteth
I ne desyre to be.

The Gonfalon it flyeth,
Seeming a Flayme in Sky;
The Bugel loud yblowen is,
Which sayeth, Doe and dye!

And (O good Saints defende us
Agaynst the Woes of Warr)
Drawn Tongues are flashing deadly
To smyte the Foeman sore!

With divers kinds of Riddance
The smoaking Earth is wet,
And all aflowe to seaward goe
The Torrents wide of Sweat!

The Thunder of the Captens,
And eke the Shouting, mayketh
Such horrid Din the Soule within
The boddy of me quayketh!

Who fyghteth the bold Seventh?
What haughty Power defyes?
Their Colonel ’tis they drubben sore,
And dammen too his Eyes!


Dear Bruner, once we had a little talk
(That is to say, ’twas I did all the talking)
About the manner of your moral walk:
How devious the trail you made in stalking,
On level ground, your law-protected game⁠—
“Another’s Dollar” is, I think, its name.

Your crooked course more recently is not
So blamable; for, truly, you have stumbled
On evil days; and ’tis your luckless lot
To traverse spaces (with a spirit humbled,
Contrite, dejected and divinely sad)
Where, ’tis confessed, the walking’s mighty bad.

Jordan, the song says, is a road (I thought
It was a river) that is hard to travel;
And Dublin, if you’d find it, must be sought
Along a highway with more rocks than gravel.
In difficulty neither can compete
With that wherein you navigate your feet.

As once George Gorham said of Pixley, so
I say of you: “The prison yawns before you,
The turnkey stalks behind!” Now will you go?
Or lag, and let that functionary floor you?
To change the metaphor⁠—you seem to be
Between Judge Wallace and the deep, deep sea!

Over the Border

O, justice, you have fled, to dwell
In Mexico, unstrangled,
Lest you should hang as high as⁠—well,
As Haman dangled.

(I know not if his cord be twanged,
Or the King proved forgiving.
’Tis hard to think of Haman hanged,
And Haymond living.)

Yes, as I said: in mortal fear
To Mexico you journeyed;
For you were on your trial here,
And ill attorneyed.

The Law had long regarded you
As an extreme offender.
Religion looked upon you, too,
With thoughts untender.

The Press to you was cold as snow,
For sin you’d always call so.
In Politics you were de trop,
In Morals also.

All this is accurately true
And, faith! there might be more said;
But⁠—well, to save your thrapple you
Fled, as aforesaid.

You’re down in Mexico⁠—that’s plain
As that the sun is risen;
For Daniel Burns down there his chain
Drags round in prison.

To an Insolent Attorney

So, Hall McAllister, you’ll not be warned⁠—
My protest slighted, admonition scorned!
To save your scoundrel client from a cell
As loth to swallow him as he to swell
Its sum of meals insurgent (it decries
All wars intestinal with meats that rise)
You turn your scurril tongue against the press
And damn the agency you ought to bless.
Had not the press with all its hundred eyes
Discerned the wolf beneath the sheep’s disguise
And raised the cry upon him, he to-day
Would lack your company, and you would lack his pay.

Talk not of “hire” and consciences for sale⁠—
You whose profession ’tis to threaten, rail,
Calumniate and libel at the will
Of any villain who can pay the bill⁠—
You whose most honest dollars all were got
By saying for a fee “the thing that’s not!”
To you ’tis one, to challenge or defend;
Clients are means, their money is an end.
In my profession sometimes, as in yours
Always, a payment large enough secures
A mercenary service to defend
The guilty or the innocent to rend.
But mark the difference, nor think it slight:
We do not hold it proper, just and right;
Of selfish lies a little still we shame
And give our villainies another name.
Hypocrisy’s an ugly vice, no doubt,
But blushing sinners can’t get on without.
Happy the lawyer!⁠—at his favored hands
Nor truth nor decency the world demands.
Secure in his immunity from shame,
His cheek ne’er kindles with the tell-tale flame.
His brains for sale, morality for hire,
In every land and century a licensed liar!

No doubt, McAllister, you can explain
How honorable ’tis to lie for gain,
Provided only that the jury’s made
To understand that lying is your trade.
A hundred thousand volumes, broad and flat,
(The Bible not included) proving that,
Have been put forth, though still the doubt remains
If God has read them with befitting pains.
No Morrow could get justice, you’ll declare,
If none who knew him foul affirmed him fair.
Ingenious man! how easy ’tis to raise
An argument to justify the course that pays!

I grant you, if you like, that men may need
The services performed for crime by greed⁠—
Grant that the perfect welfare of the State
Requires the aid of those who in debate
As mercenaries lost in early youth
The fine distinction between lie and truth⁠—
Who cheat in argument and set a snare
To take the feet of Justice unaware⁠—
Who serve with livelier zeal when rogues assist
With perjury, embracery (the list
Is long to quote) than when an honest soul,
Scorning to plot, conspire, intrigue, cajole,
Reminds them (their astonishment how great!)
He’d rather suffer wrong than perpetrate.
I grant, in short, ’tis better all around
That ambidextrous consciences abound
In courts of law to do the dirty work
That self-respecting scavengers would shirk.
What then? Who serves however clean a plan
By doing dirty work, he is a dirty man!


Charles Shortridge once to St. Peter came.
“Down!” cried the saint with his face aflame;
“ ’Tis writ that every hardy liar
Shall dwell forever and ever in fire!”
“That’s what I said the night that I died,”
The sinner, turning away, replied.
“What! you said that?” cried the saint⁠—“what! what!
You said ’twas so writ? Then, faith, ’tis not!
I’m a devil at quoting, but I begin
To fail in my memory. Pray walk in.”

A Promised Fast Train

I turned my eyes upon the Future’s scroll
And saw its pictured prophecies unroll.

I saw that magical life-laden train
Flash its long glories o’er Nebraska’s plain.

I saw it smoothly up the mountain glide.
“O happy, happy passengers!” I cried.

For Pleasure, singing, drowned the engine’s roar,
And Hope on joyous pinions flew before.

Then dived the train adown the sunset slope⁠—
Pleasure was silent and unseen was Hope.

Crashes and shrieks attested the decay
That greed had wrought upon that iron way.

The rusted rails broke down the rotting ties,
And clouds of flying spikes obscured the skies.

My coward eyes I drew away, distressed,
And fixed them on the terminus to-West,

Where soon, its melancholy tale to tell,
One bloody car-wheel wabbled in and fell!

From the Death-Column

“Open wide, ye golden gates
That lead to the heavenly shore:
Our father suffered in passing through,
And mother weighs still more.”

“Our papa dear has gone to heaven
To make arrangements for eleven.”

“The winter’s snow
Congealed his form.
But now we know
Our uncle’s warm.”

“We can but mourn our loss,
Though wretched was his life.
Death took him from the cross⁠—
Erected by his wife.”

“Weep not, mother: little Will
Is gone to Upper Louisville.”

The Farmer’s Prayer

O Lord, incline Thine ear unto our prayer
And preachers’ intercession:
This strange discrimination is unfair⁠—
That’s our impression.

Our neighbors all about have copious rains
That fall on them like manna.
Send us the showers, Lord, and parch the plains
Of Indiana.

Upon the just and unjust, sayest Thou,
Thou’lt sprinkle without favor.
The sin of promise-breaking, all allow.
Could not be graver.

We’re just, and still our whistles are not wet,
And still ’tis growing hotter;
While every scamp in Michigan can get
His fill of water.

We ask but justice: treat us not with scorn;
Our comfort make less chilly;
And those who pray for an advance in corn⁠—
O smite them silly!

Let corn be plentiful, and cheap: our hops
Look well without a shower;
We’ve sold our wheat: that profitable crop’s
Beyond Thy power.

One of the Saints

Big Smith is an Oakland School Board man,
And he looks as good as ever he can;
And he’s such a cold and a chaste Big Smith
That snowflakes all are his kin and kith.
Wherever his eye he chances to throw
The crystals of ice begin to grow;
And the fruits and flowers he sees are lost
By the singeing touch of a sudden frost.
The women all shiver whenever he’s near,
And look upon us with a look austere⁠—
Effect of the Smithian atmosphere.
Such, in a word, is the moral plan
Of the Big, Big Smith, the School Board man.
When told that Madame Ferrier had taught
Hernani in school, his fist he brought
Like a trip-hammer down on his bulbous knee,
And he roared: “Her Nanny? By gum, we’ll see
If the public’s time she dares devote
To the educatin’ of any dam goat!”
“You do not entirely comprehend⁠—
Hernani’s a play,” said his learned friend,
“By Victor Hugo⁠—immoral and bad.
What’s worse, it’s French!” “Well, well, my lad,”
Said Smith, “if he cuts a swath so wide
I’ll have him took re’glar up and tried!”
And he smiled so sweetly the other chap
Thought that himself was a Finn or Lapp
Caught in a storm of his native snows,
With a purple ear and an azure nose.
The Smith continued: “I never pursue
Immoral readin’.” And that is true:
He’s a saint of remarkably high degree,
With a mind as chaste as a mind can be;
But read!⁠—the devil a word can he.

A Military Incident

Dawn heralded the coming sun⁠—
Fort Douglas was computing
The minute⁠—and the sunrise gun
Was manned for his saluting.

The gunner at that firearm stood,
The which he slowly loaded,
When, bang!⁠—I know not how it could,
But sure the charge exploded!

Yes, to that veteran’s surprise
The gun went off sublimely,
And both his busy arms likewise
Went off with it, untimely.

Then said that gunner to his mate
(He was from Ballyshannon):
“Bedad, the sun’s a minute late,
Accardin’ to this cannon!”

Substance or Shadow

So, gentle critics, you would have me tilt,
Not at the guilty, only at their guilt!⁠—
Spare the offender and condemn Offense,
And make life miserable to Pretense!
“Whip Vice and Folly⁠—that is satire’s use⁠—
But be not personal, for that’s abuse;
Nor e’er forget what, ‘like a razor keen,
Wounds with a touch that’s scarcely felt or seen.’ ”
Well, friends, I venture, destitute of awe,
To think that razor but an old, old saw,
A trifle rusty; and a wound, I’m sure,
That’s felt not, seen not, one can well endure.
Go to! go to!⁠—you’re as unfitted quite
To give advice to writers as to write.
I find in Folly and in Vice a lack
Of head to strike, and for the lash no back,
Whilst Pixley has a pow that’s easy struck,
And though good Deacon Fitch (a Fitch for luck!)
Has none, yet, lest he go entirely free,
God gave to him a corn, a heel to me.
He, also, sets his face (so like a flint
The wonder grows that Pickering doesn’t skin’t)
With cold austerity, against these wars
On scamps⁠—’tis Scampery that he abhors!

Behold advances in dignity and state⁠—
Grave, smug, serene, indubitably great⁠—
Stanford, philanthropist! One hand bestows
In alms what t’other one to justice owes.
Rascality attends him like a shade,
But closes, woundless, o’er my baffled blade,
Its limbs unsevered, spirit undismayed.
Faith! I’m for something can be made to feel,
If, like Pelides, only in the heel.
The fellow’s self invites assault; his crimes
Will each bear killing twenty thousand times!
Anon Creed Haymond⁠—but the list is long
Of names to point the moral of my song.
Rogues, fools, impostors, sycophants, they rise;
They foul the earth and horrify the skies⁠—
With Collis Huntington (sole honest man
In all the reek of that rapscallion clan)
Denouncing Theft as hard as e’er he can!

The Committee on Public Morals

The Senate met in Sacramento city;
On public morals it had no committee,
Though greatly these abounded. Soon the quiet
Was broken by the Senators in riot.
Now, at the end of their infectious quarrels,
There’s a committee but no public morals.

A Playwright

Saint Peter, sitting at the Gate of Gold,
Looked idly down the cloudway and, behold,
A soul ascending from this world of woe,
Head up, hands pocketed⁠—serene and bold!

(To souls, such pockets are, I know, denied
As in the flesh we wear on either side,
But the dead rich⁠—or else they wouldn’t play⁠—
With souls of perished pockets are supplied.)

“Ah, Harrison,” the Saint said⁠—“William Greer,
’Twill do you little good to come, I fear;
I’ve certain crows to pick with you⁠—and, first,
You were a ‘patron of the ring,’ I hear.”

Nodding and smirking, said the soul: “That’s right;
Nothing so charmed me as to see a fight.
But pray observe that as a man of peace,
Meek under challenge, I was ‘out of sight’!”

To this the Saint made answer: “Although gay,
You were not reckless; but, my friend, they say
You⁠—what the devil was it that you did?
Ah, once you wrote, I understand, a play.

“You had the right to do so, ’tis agreed;
The Ring and Stage are near akin, indeed,
With you to write and Sullivan to act.
But, sir, the play you wrote was Runnmymede!”

“Well?” “Worst I ever saw!” The pride alurk
In authorship flashed forth, and like a dirk
That seeks a heart the cutting answer came:
“I guess you haven’t seen my later work.”

“What? you impenitent, you’ve written since?”
The Warder thundered, making William wince.
“Only to lie about my critics, please.
Of liars⁠—bar Sam Chamberlain⁠—I’m Prince!”

The Saint drew back his great two-handed key
And, as the nude immortal turned to flee,
Swung the big engine of his holy wrath,
And smote him where the back forgets to be!

All Heaven resounded with the dreadful blow,
And Echo babbled of it down below!
To farthest reaches of the shoreless void
Raced the receding sound-waves of his “O!”

Rubbing the part with many a grimace,
He said while hurtling Sheolward through space:
“Poor old Saint Peter!” and with a blue grin
Added: “That Paradise is a jay place.”

The Leader of the Minority

He tolls them along through the wilderness dire,
Ever in sight⁠—
A clod by day and a pillar of fire⁠—
Water by night.


The Chinaman’s Assailant was allowed to walk quietly away, although the street was filled with pedestrians.

Why should he not have been allowed
To thread with peaceful feet the crowd
That filled that Christian street?
The Decalogue he had observed,
From Faith in Jesus had not swerved,
And scorning pious platitudes,
He saw in the Beatitudes
A lamp to guide his feet.

He knew that Jonah downed the whale
And made no bones of it. The tale
That Ananias told
He swore was true. He had no doubt
That Daniel laid the lions out.
In short, he had all holiness,
All meekness and all lowliness,
And was with saints enrolled.

’Tis true, some slight excess of zeal
A little to promote the weal
Of this most Christian state
Had moved him rudely to divide
The queue that was a pagan’s pride,
And in addition certify
The Faith by making fur to fly
From pelt as well as pate.

But, Heavenly Father, thou dost know
That in this town these actions go
For nothing worth a name.
Nay, every editorial ass,
To prove they never come to pass
Will damn his soul eternally,
Although in his own journal he
May read the printed shame.

From bloody hands the reins of pow’r
Fall slack; the high-decisive hour
Strikes not for liars’ ears.
Remove, O Father, the disgrace
That stains our California’s face,
And consecrate to human good
The strength of her young womanhood
And all her golden years!

George C. Perkins

Running for Senator with clumsy pace,
He stooped so low to win the foremost place
That Fortune, tempted by a mark so droll,
Sprang in and kicked him to the winning pole.

To Either

Back further than
I know, in San
Francisco dwelt a wealthy man.
So rich was he
That none could be
Wise, good and great in like degree.

’Tis true he wrought,
In deed or thought,
But few of all the things he ought;
But men said: “Who
Would wish him to?
Great souls are born to be, not do!”

One thing, indeed,
He did, we read,
Which was becoming, all agreed:
Grown provident,
Ere life was spent
He built a mighty monument.

For longer than
I know, in San
Francisco lived a beggar man;
And when in bed
They found him dead⁠—
“Just like the scamp!” the people said.

He died, they say,
On the same day
His wealthy neighbor passed away.
But matters it
When beggars quit
Their beats? I answer: Not a bit.

They got a spade
And pick and made
A hole, and there the chap was laid.
“He asked for bread,”
’Twas neatly said:
“He’ll get not even a stone instead.”

The years rolled round:
His humble mound
Sank to the level of the ground;
And men forgot
That the bare spot
Was (and was like) the beggar’s lot.

Forgotten, too,
Was t’other, who
Had reared the monument to woo
Inconstant Fame,
Though still his name
Shouted in granite just the same.

That name, I swear,
They both did bear
The beggar and the millionaire.
That lofty tomb,
Then, honored⁠—whom?
For argument here’s ample room.


The Senate woke; the Chairman’s snore
Was stilled, its echoes balking;
The startled members dreamed no more,
For Steele, who long had held the floor,
Had suddenly ceased talking.

As, like Elijah, in his pride,
He to his seat was passing,
“Go up thou baldhead!” Reddy cried,
Then six fierce bears ensued and tried
To sunder him for “sassing.”

Two seized his legs, and one his head,
The fourth his trunk, to munch on;
The fifth preferred an arm instead;
The last, with rueful visage, said:
“Pray what have I for luncheon?”

Then to that disappointed bear
Said Steele, serene and chipper,
“My friend, you shall not lack your share:
Look in the Treasury, and there
You’ll find his other flipper.”

The Valley of the Shadow of Theft

In fair Yosemite, that den of thieves
Wherein the minions of the moon divide
The travelers’ purses, lo! the Devil grieves,
His larger share as leader still denied.

El Capitan, foreseeing that his reign
May be disputed too, beclouds his head.
The joyous Bridal Veil is torn in twain
And the crêpe steamer dangles there instead.

The Vernal Fall abates her pleasant speed
And hesitates to take the final plunge,
For rumors reach her that another greed
Awaits her in the Valley of the Sponge.

The Brothers envy the accord of mind
And peace of purpose (by the good deplored
As honor among Commissioners) which bind
That confraternity of crime, the Board.

The Half-Dome bows its riven face to weep,
But not, as formerly, because bereft:
Prophetic dreams afflict him when asleep
Of losing his remaining half by theft.

Ambitious knaves! has not the upper sod
Enough of room for every crime that crawls
But you must loot the Palaces of God
And daub your filthy names upon the walls?

Down Among the Dead Men

Within my dark and narrow bed
I rested well, new-laid:
I heard above my fleshless head
The grinding of a spade.

A gruffer note ensued and grew
To harsh and harsher strains:
The poet Bashford then I knew
Was “snatching” my remains.

“O Welcker, let your hand be stayed
And leave me here in peace.
Of your revenge you should have made
An end with my decease.”

“Hush, Mouldyshanks, and hear my moan:
I once, as you’re aware,
Was eminent in letters⁠—known
And honored everywhere.

“My splendor made Mipitas bright
And San Francisco blind.
Men swore no writer e’er could write
Like me⁠—if I’d a mind.

“With honors all insatiate,
With curst ambition smit,
Too far, alas! I tempted fate⁠—
I published what I’d writ!

“Good Heaven! with what a hunger wild
Oblivion swallows fame!
Men who have known me from a child
Forget my very name!

“Even creditors with searching looks
My face cannot recall;
My heaviest one⁠—he prints my books⁠—
Forgetful most of all.

“O I should feel a sweet content
If one poor dun his claim
Would bring to me for settlement,
And bully me by name.

“My dog is at my gate forlorn;
It howls through all the night,
And when I greet it in the morn
It answers with a bite!”

“O Poet, what in Satan’s name
To me’s all this ado?
Will snatching me restore the fame
That printing snatched from you?”

“Peace, dread Remains; I’m not about
To do a deed of sin.
I come not here to hale you out⁠—
I’m trying to get in.”

The Last Man

I dreamed that Gabriel took his horn
On Resurrection’s fateful morn,
And lighting upon Laurel Hill
Blew long, blew loud, blew high and shrill.
The houses compassing the ground
Rattled their windows at the sound.
But no one rose. “Alas!” said he,
“What lazy bones these mortals be!”
Again he plied the horn, again
Deflating both his lungs in vain;
Then stood astonished and chagrined
At raising nothing but the wind.
At last he caught the tranquil eye
Of an observer standing by⁠—
Last of mankind, not doomed to die.
To him thus Gabriel: “Sir, I pray
This mystery you’ll clear away.
Why do I sound my note in vain?
Why spring they not from out the plain?
Where’s Luning, Blythe and Michael Reese,
Magee, who ran the Golden Fleece?
Where’s Asa Fisk? Jim Phelan, who
Was thought to know a thing or two
Of land which rose but never sank?
Where’s Con O’Conor of the Bank,
And all who consecrated lands
Of old by laying on of hands?
I ask of them because their worth
Was known in all they wished⁠—the earth.
Brisk boomers once, alert and wise,
Why don’t they rise, why don’t they rise?”
The man replied: “Reburied long
With others of the shrouded throng
In San Mateo⁠—carted there
And dumped promiscuous, anywhere,
In holes and trenches⁠—all misfits⁠—
Mixed up with one another’s bits:
One’s back-bone with another’s shin,
A third one’s skull with a fourth one’s grin⁠—
Your eye was never, never fixed
Upon a company so mixed!
Go now among them there and blow:
’Twill be as good as any show
To see them, when they hear the tones,
Compiling one another’s bones!
But here ’tis vain to sound and wait:
Naught rises here but real estate.
I own it all and shan’t disgorge.
Don’t know me? I am Henry George.”

Arbor Day

Hasten, children, black and white⁠—
Celebrate the yearly rite.
Every pupil plant a tree:
It will grow some day to be
Big and strong enough to bear
A School Director hanging there.

The Piute

Unbeautiful is the Piute!
Howe’er bedecked with bravery,
His person is unsavory⁠—
Of soap he’s destitute.

He multiplies upon the earth
In spite of all admonishing;
All censure his astonishing
And versatile unworth.

Upon the Reservation wide
We give for his inhabiting
He goes a-jackass rabbiting
To furnish his inside.

The hopper singing in the grass
He seizes with avidity:
He loves its tart acidity,
And gobbles all that pass.

He penetrates the spider’s veil,
Industriously pillages
The toads’ defenseless villages,
And shadows home the snail.

He lightly runs to earth the quaint
Red worm and, deftly troweling,
He makes it with his boweling
Familiarly acquaint.

He tracks the pine-nut to its lair,
Surrounds it with celerity,
Regards it with asperity⁠—
Smiles, and it isn’t there!

I wish he’d open up a grin
Of adequate vivacity
And carrying capacity
To take his Agent in.


He held a book in his knotty paws,
And its title grand read he:
“The Chronicles of the Kings” it was,
By the History Companee.
“I’m a monarch,” he said
(But a tear he shed)
“And my picter here you see.

“Great and lasting is my renown,
However the wits may flout⁠—
As wide almost as this blessed town”
(But he winced as if with gout).
“I paid ’em like sin
For to put me in,
But it’s O, and O, to be out!”

One of the Redeemed

Saint Peter, standing at the Gate, beheld
A soul whose body Death had lately felled.

A pleasant soul as ever was, he seemed:
His step was joyous and his visage beamed.

“Good morning, Peter.” There was just a touch
Of foreign accent, but not overmuch.

The Saint bent gravely, like a stately tree,
And said: “You have the advantage, sir, of me.”

“Rénan of Paris,” said the immortal part⁠—
“A master of the literary art.

“I’m somewhat famous, too, I grieve to tell,
As controversialist and infidel.”

“That’s of no consequence,” the Saint replied,
“Why, I myself my Master once denied.

“No one up here cares anything for that.
But is there nothing you were always at?

“It seems to me you were accused one day
Of something⁠—what it was I can’t just say.”

“Quite likely,” said the other; “but I swear
My life was irreproachable and fair.”

Just then a soul appeared upon the wall,
Singing a hymn as loud as he could bawl.

About his head a golden halo gleamed,
As well befitted one of the redeemed.

A harp he bore and vigorously thumbed,
Strumming he sang, and, singing, ever strummed.

His countenance, suffused with holy pride,
Glowed like a pumpkin with a light inside.

“Ah! that’s the chap,” said Peter, “who declares:
‘Rénan’s a rake and drunkard⁠—smokes and swears.’

“Yes, that’s the fellow⁠—he’s a preacher⁠—came
From San Francisco. Mansfield was his name.”

“Do you believe him?” said Rénan. “Great Scott!
Believe? Believe the blackguard? Of course not!

“Just walk right in and make yourself at home.
And if he pecks at you I’ll cut his comb.

“He’s only here because the Devil swore
He wouldn’t have him, for the smile he wore.”

Resting his eyes one moment on that proof
Of saving grace, the Frenchman turned aloof,

And stepping down from cloud to cloud, said he:
“Thank you, monsieur⁠—I’ll see if he’ll have me.”

A Critic

Apparently the Cleveland Leader is not a good judge of poetry.
The Morning Call

That from you, neighbor! to whose vacant lot
Each rhyming literary knacker scourges
His cart-compelling Pegasus to trot,
As folly, vanity or famine urges?

Admonished by the stimulating goad,
How gaily, lo! the spavined crow-bait prances⁠—
Its cart before it⁠—eager to unload
The dead-dog sentiments and swill-tub fancies.

Gravely the sweating scavenger pulls out
The tail-board of his curst imagination,
Shoots all his rascal rubbish, and, no doubt,
Thanks Fortune for so good a dumping-station.

To improve your property, the vile cascade
Your thrift invites⁠—to make a higher level.
In vain: with tons of garbage overlaid,
Your baseless bog sinks slowly to the devil.

“Rubbish may be shot here”⁠—familiar sign!
I seem to see it in your every column.
You have your wish, but, sir, if I had mine
’Twould to your editors mean something solemn.

A Question of Eligibility

It was a bruised and battered chap
The victim of some dire mishap,
Who sat upon a rock and spent
His breath in this ungay lament:

“Some wars⁠—I’ve frequent heard of such⁠—
Has beat the everlastin’ Dutch!
But never fight was fit by man
To equal this which has began
In our (I’m in it, if you please)
Academy of Sciences.
For there is various gents belong
To it which go persistent wrong,
And loving the debate’s delight
Calls one another names at sight.
Their disposition, too, accords
With fighting like they all was lords!
Sech impulses should be withstood:
’Tis scientific to be good.

“ ’Twas one of them, one night last week,
Rose up his figure for to speak:
‘Please, Mr. Chair, I’m holding here
A resolution which, I fear,
Some ancient fossils that has bust
Their cases and shook off their dust
To sit as Members here will find
Unpleasant, not to say unkind.’
And then he read it every word,
And silence fell on all which heard.
That resolution, wild and strange,
Proposed a fundamental change,
Which was that idiots no more
Could join us as they had before!

“No sooner was he seated than
The members rose up, to a man.
Each chap was primed with a reply
And tried to snatch the Chairman’s eye.
They stomped and shook their fists in air,
And, O, what words was uttered there!

“The Chair was silent, but at last
He hove up his proportions vast
And stilled them tumults with a look
By which the undauntedest was shook.
He smiled sarcastical and said:
‘If Argus was the Chair, instead
Of me, he’d lack enough of eyes
Each orator to recognize!
And since, denied a hearing, you
Might maybe undertake to do
Each other harm before you cease,
I’ve took some steps to keep the peace:
I’ve ordered out⁠—alas, alas,
That Science e’er to such a pass
Should come!⁠—I’ve ordered out⁠—the gas!’

“O if a tongue or pen of fire
Was mine I could not tell entire
What the ensuin’ actions was!
When swollered up in darkness’ jaws
We fit and fit and fit and fit,
And everything we felt we hit!
We gouged, we scratched and we pulled hair,
And O, what words was uttered there!
And when at last the day dawn came
Three hundred Scientists was lame;
Two hundred others couldn’t stand,
They’d been so careless handled, and
One thousand at the very least
Was spread upon the floor deceased!
’Twere easy to exaggerate,
But lies is things I mortal hate.

“Such, friends, is the disaster sad
Which has befell the Cal. Acad.
And now the question is of more
Importance than it was before:
Shall vacancies among us be
To idiots threw open free?”

Fleet Strother

What! you were born, you animated doll,
Within the shadow of the Capitol?
’Twas always thought (and history so assures
Its trusting readers) it was reared in yours.


The night was dark, the way was steep:
I scarcely, for fatigue, could creep.

“Fatigue, begone!” I cried. Not so;
It tarried and would not bego.

At length the last wan glimmer died,
Of hope that lit up my inside.

I let go all, and thought to sink
Back, headlong, from the mountain’s brink.

But ere I fell my startled eyes
Beheld a wonder in the skies.

I grasped again a friendly tree,
To stay me till I more could see.

(When shows are free that men admire
’Tis most unthrifty to expire.)

Seven clustered planets rose as one;
Their light was like another sun!

Straight upward to the zenith they,
Without defection, held their way.

Then paused, revealing with their light
A massive building on the height.

Before my very eyes its face
It reared; my feet were at its base.

And well I knew that I had clomb
To Lick’s renowned memorial dome,

Where Holden’s mammoth tube betrays
The stellar gambols to his gaze.

With lifted brow and heart elate
I entered by the stranger’s gate.

Smit with a reverential awe,
The great man’s figure there I saw.

He sat bolt upright in a chair⁠—
Legs crossed, arms folded and head bare.

No king that I had ever seen
(Nor surely any jack nor queen)

Had ever on a golden throne
With such a gracious aspect shone.

The giant telescope, reversed,
Seemed diving from the sky head first!

Its broader end remained at rest
Within two yards of Holden’s breast.

“O mighty scientist,” I cried,
“Let me beneath this dome abide.

“The night is bad, and o’er your roof
Seven crazy planets are aloof.

“The trails are terrors to my shanks;
I dread the planetary pranks!”

He deigned no word, but gave the nod.
That sign of an assenting god.

Meantime the telescope’s great eye
With splendor smote him, hip and thigh.

It seethed him in a lambent light,
Sharp, searching, glorious and white!

“Illustrious man,” I said again,
“This mystery I pray explain.

“Why is the glass reversed, and why
Are you in session ’neath its eye?

“ ’Tis little that I know of stars,
And Venus is to me as Mars;

“But, pardon me, I know aright
How gentlemen should pass the night.”

That great professor smiled, and O,
The smile was light and cold as snow!

“Know, then,” he said “that what you view
Is payment of a debt long due.

“For years I’ve watched the planets roll,
And mapped the stars from pole to pole.

“ ’Tis true I once, the people say,
Charted the lights of San Jose,

“But, generally speaking, I
Can tell the valley from the sky.

“Those planets up in Heaven’s high cope
I long have studied through the ’scope.

“Fair play’s a jewel, and to-night
Their observation I invite.

“I turn the tube and, as you see,
Permit them now to study Me.”

Next morn as on my way I sped,
“I’ve seen a just, good man,” I said.

Californian Summer Pictures

The Foot-Hill Resort
Assembled in the parlor
Of the place of last resort,
The smiler and the snarler
And the guests of every sort⁠—
The elocution chap
With rhetoric on tap;
The mimic and the funny dog;
The social sponge; the money-hog;
Vulgarian and dude;
And the prude;
The adiposing dame
With pimply face aflame;
The kitten-playful virgin
Of a half-a-hundred years;
The solemn-looking sturgeon
Of a firm of auctioneers;
The widower flirtatious;
The widow all too gracious;
The man with a proboscis and a sepulcher beneath.
One assassin picks his banjo, and another one his teeth.

The In-Coming Climate
Now o’ nights the ocean breeze
Makes the patient flinch,
For that zephyr bears a sneeze
In every cubic inch.
Lo! the admiring population
Chorusing in sternutation
A catarrhal acclamation!

A Long-Felt Want
Dimly apparent, through the gloom
Of Market-street’s opaque simoom,
A queue of people, parti-sexed,
Awaiting the command of “Next!”
A sidewalk booth, a dingy sign:
“Teeth dusted nice⁠—five cents a shine.”

To the Happy Hunting Grounds
Wide windy reaches of high stubble field;
A long gray road, bordered with dusty pines;
A wagon moving in a “cloud by day.”
Two city sportsmen with a dove between,
Breast-high upon a fence and fast asleep⁠—
A solitary dove, the only dove
In twenty counties, and it sick, or else
It were not there. Two guns that fire as one,
With thunder simultaneous and loud;
Two shattered human wrecks of blood and bone!
And later, in the gloaming, comes a man⁠—
The worthy local coroner is he,
Renowned all thereabout, and popular
With many a remain. All tenderly
Compiling in a game-bag the remains,
He glides into the gloom and fades from sight.
The dove, cured of its ailment by the shock,
Has flown, meantime, on pinions strong and fleet,
To die of age in some far foreign land.



“All vices you’ve exhausted, friend;
So all the papers say.”


“Ah, what vile calumnies are penned!⁠—
’Tis just the other way.”

James L. Flood

As oft it happens in the youth of day
That mists obscure the sun’s imperfect ray,
Who, as he’s mounting to the dome’s extreme,
Smites and dispels them with a steeper beam,
So you the vapors that begirt your birth
Consumed, and manifested all your worth.
But still one early vice obstructs the light
And sullies all the visible and bright
Display of mind and character. You write.

Three Candidates for Senator

To sleek your way to the goal of your hope,
O plausible Mr. Perkins,
You’ll need ten tons of the softest soap
And butter a thousand firkins.
The soap you could put to a better use
In washing your hands of ambition
Ere the butter’s used for cooking your goose
To a beautiful brown condition.

“The Railroad can’t run Stanford.” That is so⁠—
The tail can’t curl the pig; but then, you know,
Inside the vegetable-garden’s pale
The pig will eat more cabbage than the tail.

Gods! what a sight! Astride McClure’s broad back
Estee jogs round the Senatorial track,
The crowd all undecided, as they pass,
Whether to cheer the man or cheer the ass.
They stop: the man to lower his feet is seen,
And the tired beast, withdrawing from between,
Mounts, as they start again, the biped’s neck,
And scarce the crowd can say which one’s on deck.

A Growler

Judge Shafter, you’re an aged man, I know,
And learned too, I doubt not, in the law;
And a head white with many a winter’s snow
(I wish, however that your heart would thaw)
Claims reverence and honor; but the jaw
That’s always wagging with a word malign,
Nagging and scolding everyone in sight
As harshly as a jaybird in a pine,
And with as little sense of wrong and right
As animates that irritable creature,
Is not a very venerable feature.

You damn all witnesses, all jurors too
And swear at the attorneys, I suppose,
(But that’s a far more righteous thing to do)
And what it’s all about, the good Lord knows,
Not you; but all the hotter, fiercer glows
Your wrath for that⁠—as dogs the louder howl
With only moonshine to incite their rage,
And bears with more ferocious menace growl,
Even when their food is flung into the cage.
Reform, your Honor, and forbear to curse us.
Lest all men, hearing you, cry: “Ecce ursus!

Ad Moodium

Tut! Moody, do not try to show
To gentlemen and ladies
That if they have not “Faith,” they’ll go
Headlong to Hades.

Faith is belief; and how can I
Have that by being willing?
This dime I cannot, though I try,
Believe a shilling.

Perhaps you can. If so, pray do⁠—
Believe you own it, also.
But what seems evidence to you
I may not call so.

Heaven knows I’d like the Faith to think
This little vessel’s contents
Are liquid gold. I see ’tis ink
For writing nonsense.

Minds prone to Faith, however, may
Come now and then to sorrow:
They put their trust in truth to-day,
In lies to-morrow.

No doubt the happiness is great
To think as one would wish to;
But not to swallow every bait,
As certain fish do.

To think a snake a cord, I hope,
Would bolden and delight me;
But some day I might think a rope
Would chase and bite me.

“Curst Reason! Faith forever blest!”
You’re crying all the season.
Well, who decides that Faith is best?
Why, Mr. Reason.

He’s right or wrong; he answers you
According to your folly,
And says what you have taught him to,
Like any polly.

A Spade

The spade that was used to turn the first sod in the construction of the Central Pacific Railroad is to be exhibited at the New Orleans Exposition.
Press Telegram

Precursor of our woes, historic spade,
What dismal records burn upon thy blade!
On thee I see the maculating stains
Of passengers’ commingled blood and brains,
In this red rust a widow’s curse appears,
And here an orphan tarnished thee with tears.
Upon thy handle sanguinary bands
Reveal the clutching of thine owner’s hands
When first he wielded thee with vigor brave
To cut a sod and dig a people’s grave⁠—
For they who are debauched are dead and ought,
In God’s name, to be hid from sight and thought.
Within thee, as within a magic glass,
I seem to see a foul procession pass⁠—
Judges with ermine dragging in the mud
And spotted here and there with guiltless blood;
Gold-greedy legislators jingling bribes;
Kept editors and sycophantic scribes;
Liars in swarms and plunderers in tribes!
They fade away before the night’s advance,
And fancy figures thee a devil’s lance
Gleaming portentous through the misty shade,
While ghosts of murdered virtues shriek about thy blade!

The Van Nessiad

From end to end, thine avenue, Van Ness,
Rang with the cries of battle and distress!
Brave lungs were thundering with dreadful sound
And perspiration smoked along the ground!
Sing, heavenly muse, to ears of mortal clay,
The meaning, cause and finish of the fray.

Great Porter Ashe (invoking first the gods,
Who signed their favor with assenting nods
That snapped off half their heads⁠—their necks grown dry
Since last the nectar cup went circling by)
Resolved to build a stable on his lot,
His neighbors fiercely swearing he should not.
Said he: “I build that stable!” “No, you don’t,”
Said they. “I can!” “You can’t!” “I will!” “You won’t!”
“By heaven!” he swore; “not only will I build,
But purchase donkeys till the place is filled!”
“Needless expense,” they sneered in tones of ice⁠—
“The owner’s self, if lodged there, would suffice.”
For three long months the awful war they waged:
With women, women, men with men engaged,
While roaring babes and shrilling poodles raged!

Jove, from Olympus, where he still maintains
His ancient session (with rheumatic pains
Touched by his long exposure) marked the strife,
Interminable but by loss of life;
For malediction soon exhausts the breath⁠—
If not, old age itself is certain death.
Lo! he holds high in heaven the fatal beam;
A golden pan depends from each extreme;
One feels of Porter’s fate the downward stress,
One bears the destiny of all Van Ness.
Alas! the rusted scales, their life all gone,
Deliver judgment neither pro nor con:
The dooms hang level and the war goes on.
With a divine, contemptuous disesteem
Jove dropped the pans and kicked, himself, the beam:
Then, to decide the strife, with ready wit,
The nickel that he did not care for it
Twirled absently, remarking: “See it spin:
Head, Porter loses; tail, the others win.”
The conscious nickel, charged with doom, spun round,
Portentously and made a ringing sound,
Then, staggering beneath its load of fate,
Sank rattling, died at last and lay in state.

Jove scanned the disk and then, as is his wont,
Raised his considering orbs, exclaiming: “Front!”
With leisurely alacrity approached
The herald god, to whom his mind he broached:
“In San Francisco two belligerent Powers,
Such as contended round great Ilion’s towers,
Fight for a stable, though in either class
There’s not a horse, and but a single ass.
Achilles Ashe, with formidable jaw
Assails a Trojan band with fierce hee-haw,
Firing the night with brilliant curses. They
With dark vituperation gloom the day.
Fate, against which nor gods nor men compete,
Decrees their victory and his defeat.
With haste, good Mercury, betake thee hence
And salivate him till he has no sense!”

Sheer downward shot the messenger afar,
Trailing a splendor like a falling star!
With dimming lustre through the air he burned,
Vanished, but with another sun returned.
The sovereign of the gods superior smiled,
Beaming benignant, fatherly and mild:
“Is Destiny’s decree performed, my lad?⁠—
And has he now no sense?” “Ah, sire, he never had.”


They tell me, Deacon Fitch, that you are out:
The Bulletin being sold, you couldn’t buy it.
My, my! what could you, man, have been about
These many years of editoring? Why, it
Seems hardly credible that you have made
So little, working at so good a trade.

Why, bless you! there is Mike de Young, a man⁠—
At least a⁠—well, it doesn’t greatly matter;
He’s famous from the water-front to San
Juan Smith street as less good than you, though fatter.
He’s rich! Among the things he’s proved to own
Are half a million dollars and Frank Stone.

So rich is he that many persons swear
He ought as Senator to be elected.
He’s rich enough to want the earth and air,
Although not rich enough to be respected.
You say that’s nothing to the purpose. True,
I meant to sing about, not him, but you.

You’re hardly worth it, maybe: he who scorns
His opportunities of gain by mounting,
And then dismounting, other person’s corns
Discredits journalism. There’s no accounting
For tastes; no doubt you think yourself as good
As if in mail of black you proudly stood.

I do not think you so⁠—the rich are best.
They’ve leisure, they explain, for moral culture.
(What fowl so meditative on the nest⁠—
So introspective as the glutted vulture?)
“Our Mike” is noble, I’m persuaded⁠—nay,
He’ll tell you so himself ten times a day.

He will slip in: I can’t at all prevent
His reasonless and seasonless intrusion.
I wish that, like Mo. Gunst, the wretch “had went.”
Come, Deacon, let us drink to his confusion.
On second thoughts, I can’t afford, I think⁠—
No more can you⁠—to buy befitting drink.

Ah, well, in all these long, contentious years
’Tis many an ill turn we’ve done each other.
You ne’er could altogether stay your sneers,
Nor I regard you as an elder brother.
You every way invited my dislike,
Excepting by comparison with Mike.

The cause of quarrel (now at end of war
The hatchet we’ll inter and marble-slab it)
Was plain to either adversary, for
’Twas very simple, though sufficient: Habit.
If there was aught behind I know not⁠—that
Explains full twenty years of dog-and-cat.

Now, as you leave the field, let me be frank:
Excepting various errors of the noddle,
Such as made talk of “caving down the bank,”
And lately a bad flow of Sandlot twaddle,
And always a bat’s blindness to my worth,
Your record’s clean and laudable from birth.

Fitch, here’s my hand; my heart is in it, too.
(That organ’s somewhat out of shape, however,
From use in football.) Really, ’twould not do
Our long relation sullenly to sever.
Soon comes the silence. May we then be laid
Where Mike’s tall monument bestows its shade!

A Fish Commissioner

Great Joseph D. Redding⁠—illustrious name!⁠—
Considered a fish-horn the trumpet of Fame.
That goddess was angry, and what do you think?
Her trumpet she filled with a gallon of ink,
And all through the Press, with a devilish glee,
She sputtered and spattered the name of J. D.

To a Stray Dog

Well, Towser (I’m thinking your name must be Towser),
You’re a decentish puppy as puppy dogs go,
For you never, I’m sure, could have dined upon trowser,
And your tail’s unimpeachably curled just so.

But, dear me! your name⁠—if ’tis yours⁠—is a “poser”:
Its meaning I cannot get anywise at,
When spoken correctly perhaps it is Toser,
And means one who toses. Max Muller, how’s that?

I ne’er was ingenious at all at divining
A word’s prehistorical, primitive state,
Or finding its root, like a mole, by consigning
Its bloom to the turnip-top’s sorrowful fate.

And, now that I think of it well, I’m no nearer
The riddle’s solution than ever⁠—for how’s
My pretty invented word, “tose,” any clearer
In point of its signification than “towse”?

So, Towser (or Toser), I mean to rename you
In honor of some good and eminent man,
In the light and the heat of whose quickening fame you
May grow to an eminent dog if you can.

In sunshine like his you’ll not long be a croucher:
The Senate shall hear you⁠—for that I will vouch.
Come here, sir. Stand up. I rechristen you Goucher.
But damn you! I’ll shoot you if ever you Gouch!

In His Hand

De Young (in Chicago the story is told)
“Took his life in his hand,” like a warrior bold,
And stood before Buckley⁠—who thought him behind,
For Buckley, the man-eating monster is blind.
“Count fairly the ballots!” so rang the demand
Of the gallant De Young, with his life in his hand.
’Tis done, and the struggle is ended. No more
He havocs the battle-field, gilt with the gore
Of slain reputations. No more he defies
His “lying opponents” with deadlier lies.
His trumpet is hushed and his belt is unbound⁠—
His enemies’ characters cumber the ground.
They bloat on the war-plain with ink all asoak,
The fortunate candidates perching to croak.
No more he will charge, with a daring divine,
His foes with corruption, his friends by the line.
The thunders are stilled of the horrid campaign,
De Young is triumphant, and never again
Will he need, with his life in his hand, to roar:
“Count fair or, by God, I will die on your floor!”
His life has been spared, for his sins to atone,
And the hand that he took it in washed with cologne.

A Demagogue

“Yawp, yawp, yawp!
Under the moon and sun.
It’s aye the rabble,
And I to gabble,
And hey! for the tale that is never done.

“Chant, chant, chant!
To woo the reluctant vote.
I would I were dead
And my say were said
And my song were sung to its ultimate note.

“Stab, stab, stab!
Ah! the weapon between my teeth⁠—
I’m sick of the flash of it;
See how the slash of it
Misses the foeman to mangle the sheath!

“Boom, boom, boom!
I’m beating the mammoth drum.
My nethermost tripes
I blow into the pipes⁠—
It’s O for the honors that never come!”

’Twas the dolorous blab
Of a tramping “scab”⁠—
’Twas the eloquent Swift
Of the marvelous gift⁠—
The wild, weird, wonderful gift of gab!

Ignis Fatuus

Weep, weep, each loyal partisan,
For Buckley, king of hearts;
A most accomplished man; a man
Of parts⁠—of foreign parts.

Long years he ruled with gentle sway,
Nor grew his glory dim;
And he would be with us to-day
If we were but with him.

Men wondered at his going off
In such a sudden way;
’Twas thought, as he had come to scoff
He would remain to prey.

Since he is gone we’re all agreed
That he is what men call
A crook: his very steps, indeed,
Are bent⁠—to Montreal.

So let our tears unhindered flow,
Our sighs and groans have way:
It matters not how much we O!⁠—
The devil is to pay.

From Top to Bottom

Japan has 73,759 Buddhist priests, “most of whom,” says a Christian missionary, “are grossly ignorant, and many of them lead scandalous lives.”

O Buddha, had you but foreknown
The vices of your priesthood
It would have made you twist and moan
As any wounded beast would.
You would have damned the entire lot
And turned a Christian, would you not?

There were no Christians, I’ll allow,
In your day; that would only
Have brought distinction. Even now
A Christian might feel lonely.
All take the name, but facts are things
As stubborn as the will of kings.

The priests were ignorant and low
When ridiculed by Lucian;
The records, could we read, might show
The same of times Confucian.
And yet the fact I can’t disguise
That Deacon Rankin’s good and wise.

’Tis true he is not quite a priest,
Nor more than half a preacher;
But he exhorts as loud at least
As any living creature.
And when the plate is passed about
He never takes a penny out.

From Buddha down to Rankin! There⁠—
I never did intend to.
This pen’s a buzzard’s quill, I swear,
Such subjects to descend to.
When from the humming-bird I’ve wrung
A plume I’ll write of Mike de Young.

An Idler

Who told Creed Haymond he was witty?⁠—who
Had nothing better in this world to do?
Could no greased pig’s appeal to his embrace
Kindle his ardor for the friendly chase?
Did no dead dog upon a vacant lot,
Bloated and bald, or curdled in a clot,
Stir his compassion and inspire his arms
To hide from human eyes its faded charms?

If not to works of piety inclined,
Then recreation might have claimed his mind.
The harmless game that shows the feline greed
To cinch the shorts and make the market bleed3
Is better sport than victimizing Creed;
And a far livelier satisfaction comes
Of knowing Simon, autocrat of thumbs.4
If neither worthy work nor play command
This gentleman of leisure’s heart and hand,
Then Mammon might his idle spirit lift
By hope of profit to some deed of thrift.
Is there no cheese to pare, no flint to skin,
No tin to mend, no glass to be put in,
No housewife worthy of a morning visit,
Her rags and sacks and bottles to solicit?
Lo! the blind sow’s precarious pursuit
Of the aspiring oak’s familiar fruit!⁠—
’Twould more advantage any man to steal
This easy victim’s undefended meal
Than tell Creed Haymond he has wit, and so
Expose the state to his narcotic flow!

The Dead King

Hawaii’s King resigned his breath⁠—
Our Legislature guffawed.
The awful dignity of death
Not any single rough awed.
But when our Legislators die
All Kings, Queens, Jacks and Aces cry.

A Patter Song

There was a cranky Governor⁠—
His name it wasn’t Waterman.
For office he was hotter than
The love of any lover, nor
Was Boruck’s threat of aiding him
Effective in dissuading him⁠—
This pig-headed, big-headed, singularly self-conceited Governor Nonwaterman.

To citrus fairs, et cetera,
He went about philandering,
To pride of parish pandering,
He knew not any better⁠—ah,
His early education had
Not taught the abnegation fad⁠—
The wool-witted, bull-witted, fabulously feeble-minded king of gabble-gandering!

He conjured up, ad libitum,
With postures energetical,
One day (this is prophetical)
His graces, to exhibit ’em.
He straddled in each attitude,
Four parallels of latitude⁠—
The slab-footed, crab-footed, galloping gregarian, of presence unaesthetical!

An ancient cow, perceiving that
His powers of agility
Transcended her ability
(A circumstance for grieving at)
Upon her horns engrafted him
And to the welkin wafted him⁠—
The high-rolling, sky-rolling, hurtling hallelujah lad of peerless volatility!

A Caller

“Good morning; you are looking very well,”
Said Death as, strolling through the County Jail,
And entering a fat assassin’s cell,
He hung his hat and coat upon a nail.
“I think that life in this secluded spot
Agrees with men of your trade, does it not?”

“Well, yes,” was the reply, “I can’t complain:
Life anywhere⁠—provided it is mine⁠—
Agrees with me; but I observe with pain
That still the people murmur and repine.
It hurts their sense of harmony, no doubt,
To see a persecuted man grow stout.”

“O no, ’tis not your growing stout,” said Death,
“Which makes these malcontents complain and scold;
They like you to be, somehow, scant of breath.
What they object to is your growing old.
And⁠—though indifferent to lean or fat⁠—
I don’t myself entirely favor that.”

With brows that met above the orbs beneath,
And nose that like a soaring hawk appeared,
And lifted lip, uncovering his teeth,
The pampered butcher glacially sneered:
“O, so you don’t! Well, how will you assuage
Your spongy passion for the blood of age?”

Death with a clattering convulsion drew
His coat on, hatted his unmeated pow,
Unbarred the door and, stepping partly through,
Turned and made answer: “I will show you how.
I’m going to the Bench you call Supreme
And tap the old women who sit there and dream.”

The Shafter Shafted

Well, James McMillan Shafter, you’re a Judge⁠—
At least you were when last I knew of you;
And if the people since have made you budge
I did not notice it. I’ve much to do
Without endeavoring to follow, through
The miserable squabbles, dust and smudge,
The fate of all political contenders
Who fight with flying colors and suspenders.

Being a Judge, ’tis natural and wrong
That you should vilify the public press⁠—
Save while you are a candidate. That song
Is easy quite to sing, and I confess
It wins applause from hearers who have less
Of spiritual graces than belong
To audiences of another kidney⁠—
Men, for example, like Sir Philip Sidney.

Newspapers, so you say, don’t always treat
The Judges with respect. That may be so
And still no harm done, for I swear I’ll eat
My legs and in the long hereafter go,
Snake-like, upon my belly if you’ll show
All Judges are respectable and sweet.
For some of them are rogues and the Lord’s laughter’s
Directed at some others, for they’re Shafters.

To One Out of Favor

Attention, Miles! You have observed, no doubt,
That General Sam Young is “fired out”;
That is to say, retired for age. Just so;
You were yourself retired not long ago⁠—
Just “cast as rubbish to the void” (for such
Is Law’s demand)⁠—alighting where ’tis much
Too cold for comfort. There you may be found
Piled up on Fame’s eternal dumping-ground.
If you’ve a memory you still can tell
Yourself how singularly hard you fell,
And no one “kissed the place to make it well.”

I know not (Mr. Root knows little else)
Why Sam should fare so better far than Nelse,
But so he did, for scarcely did he light
Ere Mr. Secretary gripped him tight,
Stood him erect, removed his coat and shirt,
And, finding on his person where it hurt,
Performed, in pity for his hapless plight,
The appropriate consolatory rite.

Miles, you are lucky! True, you’re badly bruised,
The wound administered, the balm refused;
But if too rashly you had dared to strip
Your aching back for the official lip,
Consider the temptation (none can fight it
Who has Administration teeth) to bite it!


With her grief the widow was so engrossed
As she rode at the hearse’s rear,
That I really think the dead man’s ghost
Must have shed the ghost of a tear.

She murmured and moaned and wiped her eyes
And blew her pale nose for relief,
Then started and cried, as in pained surprise,
“I’ve forgotten my handkerchief!

“O, what shall I do when we get to the grave
And the coffin is put in the ground?
I know I shall weep, for I cannot be brave
With those staring people all round.”

“Be calm,” said one; “there is nothing forgot,
For your handkerchief you bring⁠—
You are holding it⁠—see.” Said the widow: “What!
This pokey old linen thing?”

To One in Custody

Villain! for years you’ve plied your awful trade
For wife, for widow and⁠—no, not for maid:
Even you’ll confess in chastity one true
Advantage⁠—its immunity from you.
About your hand, in clamorous appeal,
As round the blade of Calmar, shriek and wheel,
Like flights of Arctic seabirds, the forlorn
Pale ghosts⁠—mothers and babes unborn.
Now, villain, now, I pray your time has come⁠—
Mercy be deaf and intercession dumb!
No more, red-handed, in the path to life
May you be found alurk with eager knife,
Nor longer o’er the door to death display
The sign, “For Ladies.” Lo! day after day
For twenty years I’ve read on every wall
A handwriting prophetic of your fall.
And now the last dread syllable I spell
That damns your body to a felon’s cell⁠—
Your soul has long awaited you in Hell!

For a Revised Version

Oh, deem it not presumption, Lord,
In me to revise Thy holy Word⁠—
No jot or tittle I’d efface,
No menace dire, nor pledge of grace.
No poetry I’d blot (although it’s
Well known to Thee that I hate poets),
But humbly, reverently try
Some missing mandates to supply.
For lo! I fall of dunces ill,
Who’ve got by heart Thy written will;
I turn, behold! in tears away
From rogues Thy bidding who obey.
Wherever “Thou shalt not” occurs
I’d add “Thou shalt the exact reverse,”
And many a virtue, too, compel
(By plain command and threat of hell)
Which has no corresponding vice
To interdict in terms precise.
Thus I’d exterminate the brood
Of rascals negatively good⁠—
Men Bible-clear, who ought to smart
Beneath the lash at tail of cart.
Each soul (masks, too, would then be thinner)
If not a saint, should be a sinner.
In error, Lord, if I am found,
Observe how clouds my vision bound:
Forgive my narrowness of sight,
And bless me with the larger light
In Thine imperfect law to trace
The perfect purpose of Thy grace.

The Mormon Question

By J‑qu‑n M‑ll‑r

I said I will shake myself out of my clothes,
I will roll up my sleeves, I will spit on my hands
(The hands that I kissed to the sun in the lands
To the north, to the east, to the south, and the west
Of every sea that is under the sun),
I will go to the land that the Gentile loathes
As he gathers his one small wife to his breast
And curses and loathes till his life is done.
I will go to the place of the Mormon: the place
Where the jackass rabbit is first in the race
And the woodchuck chatters in meaningless glee⁠—
Chatters and twists all his marvelous face⁠—
Twists it and chatters and looks like me.
And I rose in the strongest strength of my strength,
With my breast of brass and my hair’s full length,
And I shook myself out of my clothes in the land
Of the Mormons, and stood there and kissed my hand.

An Election Expense

Stanford, when recently you gave Tom Fitch
Ten thousand dollars, gold, to “stump the State”
(A circumstance of no importance, which
You deemed it right, however, to relate
To the grand jury) did you calculate
That it and other sums, which I will not
Embarrass you by naming, would come back,
As bread upon the waters, piping hot,
With added pancakes in an ample stack?
’Twere better, sir, to cast your bread-and-butter
(You’d get that back, at least) into the gutter.

Tom Fitch’s “silver tongue” is very well
If let alone⁠—though that he’ll never do.
For he must live by what he has to sell,
And silver should be “free,” that’s very true.
But how the devil could the thing help you?
Like an unruly child, it kicks and squalls
In mutiny whene’er he moves his chin,
And ne’er is faithful except when he falls
Asleep in Je⁠—I mean, of course, in Gin.
Tom’s tongue make Senators? No, no, that’s gammon;
They’re made by Mr. Stow and Mr. Mammon.

I know they are, for once I saw the two
Hobnobbing in a friendly kind of way
Up there at Sacramento. It is true
You were not with them. I heard statesmen say
You took good care to tarry at the Bay,
Where you could be “surprised” when Creed should claim
Your ear, and hope you’d pardon him, and sigh,
And say he’d ventured to propose your name,
And that all men had thrown their hats so high
That none had yet come down, and split their collars
With cheers, and⁠—would you loan him twenty dollars?

A famous person said that God and he
Were a majority; so, by your leave,
Are you and Mammon; but it seems to me
That you and he on this Thanksgiving eve
Should drink a stirrup-cup (for I perceive
You ride your philanthropic hobby⁠—Ned
Curtis astride behind you) and so part.
For, after all is done and all is said.
Mammon & Stanford are not over-smart.
The firm’s an old one, but not quite respected
Since you in statesmanship have been detected.

William F. Smith

Light lie the earth upon his dear dead heart,
And dreams disturb him never.
Be deeper peace than Paradise his part
Forever and forever.

Juventus Mundi

Dr. Allen Griffiths is an audible Theosopher⁠—
A student of Blavatsky, inconsolable for loss of her.
He says (he’s seen the figures, too) the human race was flourishing
Three hundred million years upon this planet, ever nourishing
The flame of immortality (which always, though, was flickering
Until it burned, a still, eternal red, in Mr. Pickering)
Before that microbe-chief of all the spiritual faculties,
The Faculty of Thinking, heard of Man and lightly tackled his
Poor brain, then sleeping sweetly in his undefended cranium.
Unable to distinguish a surmise from a geranium.
O happy, happy period of mental independency!
O golden, golden age of Theosophical ascendency!

Two Guides

Ingersoll has neither philosophy nor logic. He has only sentiment, wit and rhetoric.

You, Fitch, are known to be a Deacon⁠—
A shining light, a holy beacon
Upon the walls of Zion, blazing
With an effulgency amazing.

And yet, I think, between the two
(Bob Ingersoll, I mean, and you)
A man in want of light to read
Between the lines of nature’s Creed

Would rather scrutinize Creation
By Robert’s clear illumination,
Than blind his eyes with smoke and vapor
From your infernal sputtering taper.

Though Ingersoll, perchance, had not
Of wisdom or of truth one jot,
I’d rather miss with him the clew
To life than follow it with you.

In Warning

They tell us, dear Kipling, you’re coming to shoot
In the hills of the wide, wild West.
There’s a lot of cost and a risk to boot⁠—
I don’t at all think it is best,
And hope it is only a jest.

For, Rudyard, although you’re a terrible swell
You’re not in high favor out here;
For you said San Francisco was meaner than⁠—well,
You said it was very small beer
And Chicago uncommonly queer.

You put your legs under our tables, you did,
You dined at the Jollidog Club;
And when of your hunger you well were rid
(And your manners too) like a cub
You snarled at the speeches and grub.

You said⁠—I don’t know the one half that you said,
But I know you pretended to meet
Some folk that existed not out of your head
Or an English comical sheet.
And you vilified Kearny street!

Our statesman apparently didn’t get far
In the favor of one so too,
Too utterly fine. Nor the plump cigar
Nor the shiny hat could woo
The sweet and beautiful You.

But hardest of all our hearts you wrung
With assorted pangs and woes
When you said you could speak the English tongue,
But not the American nose.
And you damned our orators o’s!

For all of this and for all of that
You’d better abate your flame,
And remain where pheasants are tame and fat
And the sportsman takes his aim,
As a general thing, at the game.

Out here when we go to shoot, perhaps
Nor beast nor bird we see;
So we just let go at the Britisher chaps
Who have made remarks too free,
And the same surcease to be.


“The ghosts are all gone,” the Bulletin cries.
O neighbor, good neighbor, where are your eyes?
Gruesome and ghastly, beneath your nose
A ghost is stalking that never goes.
With a stony eye and a brow of gloom,
It enters the editorial room,
It haunts the passages, haunts the stairs⁠—
Editors, printers alike it scares;
But the reader most it appals, for still
It writes and writes with a real quill,
On real paper, in real ink,
The phantoms of thoughts that dead men think.
Sheeted ideas from wormy brains
Troop o’er the paper, and spooks of strains
Of sepulchral laughter seem to float
In the air as the ghost reads what it wrote;
And a faint, white, phosphorescent ray⁠—
The visible eloquence of decay⁠—
Gleams on its lips as it reads each word
In a tone that no mortal before has heard.
Copy to printer and ghost to tomb⁠—
Silent the editorial room.
O the Bulletin ghost is indeed a most
Remarkable kind of a Bulletin ghost.
Who sees it cries, as his heart were bled:
“O God! will Bill Bartlett never stay dead?”

A Creditable Collision

There was once a brave collision
In Imaginary Bay,
When a steamer with precision
Clove its comfortable way
Through another, which had hospitably stood
To receive it, as a civil steamer should.

Then the people on the latter
Said they didn’t understand,
But they thought they’d better scatter
To the most adjacent land;
And the people on the former said: “That’s so⁠—
You will find it sixty fathoms down below.”

Then the skipper of the vessel
Which was sinking in the brine
Said to t’other one: “I guess I’ll
Trouble you to drop a line.”
“Well, just give me your address,” was the reply,
“I am busy but I’ll write you by-and-by.”

Then the carpenter whose function
Was to mend the leaky boat
Said: “So wide is our disjunction
That we cannot longer float.
See the rats already leave us!” And so he
Up and hove his kit among them in the sea.

Though these incidents are cheerful
For a landsman to relate,
Yet the passengers were fearful
Of a melancholy fate;
For their knowledge was imperfect of the way
That the fishes have of breathing in the bay.

Some of them, who were accounted
Quite unmannerly and rude,
On the floating steamer mounted,
Saying: “Hope we don’t intrude.”
But the others, with politeness rare and fine,
Said their tickets were not good upon that line.

But the skipper of the wetter
Ship, the pilot and the mate⁠—
Nothing ever yet was better
Than the way they met their fate;
For the perils that beset them in their climb
They encountered with alacrity sublime.

When the troubles all were ended
And the living safe in port
Invitation was extended
For them all to come to court.
Where the officers (they afterward explained)
Were with deferential kindness entertained.

Twenty Consuls, ten Inspectors,
Thirty Coroners were there,
Eighty-seven skilled objectors
And a Notary to swear;
And before that court the sailor-people sighed
And expounded how the passengers had lied.

The unanimous decision
Of that high and mighty court
Was “spontaneous collision”⁠—
(I am quoting the report)
And the skippers were commended who had fed
To the lobsters each a bellyful of dead.

An Emigrant

(After Tennyson)

You ask me why, though ill at ease,
Within this region I subsist,
Where all defaulters fill the fist
Ere sailing o’er the western seas.

It is a land where one may kill
With sober-sided freedom⁠—bruise
And shoot and stab whome’er he choose,
And thugs may wreak their own sweet will.

A land of such misgovernment
That Justice here has not a frown,
And greed still broadens slowly down,
From Scavenger to President;

Where Faction gathers to a head,
And in his greasy, foulest thought
Sets law and order all at naught⁠—
Goes in for anarchy instead.

If banded unions prosecute
Our unions like the deuce, and I’m
About to be had up for crime,
Or made to keep my clapper mute;

And Power should take from purse and till,
The gains that I appropriate
From every coffer of the State,
And I to fight have not the will,

Then waft me from the harbor south,
Wild winds! I seek a safer sky,
Where I can plunder still, and I
Can still shoot off my loaded mouth.

Contempt of Court

So, Juror Simpson, you got drunk
And was a holy show!
Who could have thought that you had sunk
So very low
As not to hold it clearly sinful
To get your miserable skin full?

Defendant has a right, I think,
To trial by her peers;
Are you one when you are in drink
Up to your ears?
You’re not her equal by a pailful
When you’ve enough to make a whale full.

Judge Ross, who never, never looks
On wine when it is red,
But sits cold sober cramming books
Into his head,
Poor fellow! must have felt quite rueful,
Observing, not himself, but you full.

Ah, well, I know you did not mean⁠—
’Twas all an accident:
You drank between drinks, and between
Them you repent.
But just prepare for something awful
In words: That jurist has his jaw full.

A Partial Eclipse

A Person of Consequence rose from the dead,
And to him a curious citizen said:
“Beg pardon, but why is your glorious name
Not blazoned in gold on the Temple of Fame?”
“I truly don’t know,” said the spook in reply,
“And was just on the point of asking you why
Those other names are.” And the risen one made
A wink that threw half of the land into shade,
Sent half of the hens to their perches aloof,
And half of the cats to the peak of a roof,
Half-crazed the foreseer of eclipses, and fooled
The funny left lobe of the brain of Miss Gould.