By Ambrose Bierce
(1842 - 1914?)
 
 
Another Way
 
 
I LAY in silence, dead. A woman came
    And laid a rose upon my breast, and said,
“May God be merciful.” She spoke my name,
    And added, “It is strange to think him dead.
 
“He loved me well enough, but ’t was his way
    To speak it lightly.” Then, beneath her breath:
“Besides”—I knew what further she would say,
    But then a footfall broke my dream of death.
 
To-day the words are mine. I lay the rose
    Upon her breast, and speak her name, and deem
It strange indeed that she is dead. God knows
    I had more pleasure in the other dream.
 
 
Creation
 
 
GOD dreamed—the suns sprang flaming into place,
And sailing worlds with many a venturous race.
He woke—His smile alone illumined space.
 
 
Montefiore
 
 
I SAW—’t was in a dream, the other night—
A man whose hair with age was thin and white;
  One hundred years had bettered by his birth,
And still his step was firm, his eye was bright.
 
Before him and about him pressed a crowd.
Each head in reverence was bared and bowed,
  And Jews and Gentiles in a hundred tongues
Extolled his deeds and spake his fame aloud.
 
I joined the throng and, pushing forward, cried,
“Montefiore!” with the rest, and vied
  In efforts to caress the hand that ne’er
To want and worth had charity denied.
 
So closely round him swarmed our shouting clan
He scarce could breathe, and, taking from a pan
  A gleaming coin, he tossed it o’er our heads,
And in a moment was a lonely man!
 
 
Presentiment
 
 
WITH saintly grace and reverent tread
    She walked among the graves with me;
    Her every footfall seemed to be
A benediction on the dead.
 
The guardian spirit of the place
    She seemed, and I some ghost forlorn,
    Surprised by the untimely morn
She made with her resplendent face.
 
Moved by some waywardness of will,
    Three paces from the path apart
    She stepped and stood—my prescient heart
Was stricken with a passing chill.
 
My child-lore of the years agone
    Remembering, I smiled and thought,
    “Who shudders suddenly at naught,
His grave is being trod upon.”
 
But now I know that it was more
    Than idle fancy. O, my sweet,
    I did not know such little feet
Could make a buried heart so sore!
 
 
T. A. H.
 
 
YES, he was that, or that, as you prefer,—
Did so and so, though, faith, it was n’t all;
Lived like a fool, or a philosopher,
And had whatever’s needful to a fall.
As rough inflections on a planet merge
In the true bend of the gigantic sphere,
Nor mar the perfect circle of its verge,
So in the survey of his worth the small
Asperities of spirit disappear,
Lost in the grander curves of character.
He lately was hit hard; none knew but I
The strength and terror of that ghastly stroke,—
Not even herself. He uttered not a cry,
But set his teeth and made a revelry;
Drank like a devil,—staining sometimes red
The goblet ’s edge; diced with his conscience; spread,
Like Sisyphus, a feast for Death, and spoke
His welcome in a tongue so long forgot
That even his ancient guest remembered not
What race had cursed him in it. Thus my friend,
Still conjugating with each failing sense
The verb “to die” in every mood and tense,
Pursued his awful humor to the end.
When, like a stormy dawn, the crimson broke
From his white lips, he smiled and mutely bled,
And, having meanly lived, is grandly dead.
 
 
The Bride
 
 
“YOU know, my friends, with what a brave carouse
I made a second marriage in my house,—
  Divorced old barren Reason from my bed
And took the Daughter of the Vine to spouse.”
 
So sang the Lord of Poets. In a gleam
Of light that made her like an angel seem,
  The Daughter of the Vine said: “I myself
Am Reason, and the Other was a Dream.”
 
 
The Death of Grant
 
 
FATHER! whose hard and cruel law
    Is part of thy compassion’s plan,
    Thy works presumptuously we scan
For what the prophets say they saw.
 
Unbidden still, the awful slope
    Walling us in, we climb to gain
    Assurance of the shining plain
That faith has certified to hope.
 
In vain: beyond the circling hill
    The shadow and the cloud abide;
    Subdue the doubt, our spirits guide
To trust the Record and be still;
 
To trust it loyally as he
    Who, heedful of his high design,
    Ne’er raised a seeking eye to thine,
But wrought thy will unconsciously,
 
Disputing not of chance or fate,
    Nor questioning of cause or creed:
    For anything but duty’s deed
Too simply wise, too humbly great.
 
The cannon syllabled his name;
    His shadow shifted o’er the land,
    Portentous, as at his command
Successive cities sprang to flame!
 
He fringed the continent with fire,
    The rivers ran in lines of light!
    Thy will be done on earth—if right
Or wrong he cared not to inquire.
 
His was the heavy hand, and his
    The service of the despot blade;
    His the soft answer that allayed
War’s giant animosities.
 
Let us have peace: our clouded eyes
    Fill, Father, with another light,
    That we may see with clearer sight
Thy servant’s soul in Paradise.
 
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