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A Society Leader

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

'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.

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

2:12 min read
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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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