A Railroad Lackey

Ambrose Bierce 1842 (Meigs County) – 1914 (Chihuahua)



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 and 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 Creedhaymonds, 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 'Leland $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!

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:04 min read
63

Quick analysis:

Scheme ABABBAACC DEDEEDDXF GHGHHGGII JKJKKJJLL MNXNNMMFF DODOODDPP
Closest metre Iambic pentameter
Characters 2,225
Words 403
Stanzas 6
Stanza Lengths 9, 9, 9, 9, 9, 9

Ambrose Bierce

Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce was an American editorialist, journalist, short story writer, fabulist, and satirist. more…

All Ambrose Bierce poems | Ambrose Bierce Books

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