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Aspirants Three

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


DE YOUNG _a Brother to Mushrooms_

SWIFT _an Heirloom_
ESTEE _a Relic_



_Scene_-The Political Graveyard at Bone Mountain.


This is the spot agreed upon. Here rest
The sainted statesman who upon the field
Of honor have at various times laid down
Their own, and ended, ignominious,
Their lives political. About me, lo!
Their silent headstones, gilded by the moon,
Half-full and near her setting-midnight. Hark!
Through the white mists of this portentous night
(Which throng in moving shapes about my way,
As they were ghosts of candidates I've slain,
To fray their murderer) my open ear,
Spacious to maw the noises of the world,
Engulfs a footstep.
(_Enter Estee from his tomb._)
Ah, 'tis he, my foe,
True to appointment; and so here we fight
Though truly 'twas my firm belief that he
Would send regrets, or I had not been here.


O moon that hast so oft surprised the deeds
Whereby I rose to greatness!-tricksy orb,
The type and symbol of my politics,
Now draw my ebbing fortunes to their flood,
As, by the magic of a poultice, boils
That burn ambitions with defeated fires
Are lifted into eminence.
(_Sees De Young._)
What? you!
Faith, if I had suspected you would come
From the fair world of politics wherein
So lately you were whelped, and which, alas,
I vainly to revisit strive, though still
Rapped on the rotting head and bidden sleep
Till Resurrection's morn,-if I had thought
You would accept the challenge that I flung
I would have seen you damned ere I came forth
In the night air, shroud-clad and shivering,
To fight so mean a thing! But since you're here,
Draw and defend yourself. By gad, we'll _see_
Who'll be Postmaster-General!


We will-
I'll fight (for I am lame) with any blue
And redolent remain that dares aspire
To wreck the Grand Old Grandson's cabinet.
Here's at you, nosegay!

(_They draw tongues and are about to fight, when from an
adjacent whited sepulcher, enter Swift._)


Hold! put up your tongues!
Within the confines of this sacred spot
Broods such a holy calm as none may break
By clash of weapons, without sacrilege.
(_Beats down their tongues with a bone._)
Madmen! what profits it? For though you fought
With such heroic skill that both survived,
Yet neither should achieve the prize, for I
Would wrest it from him. Let us not contend,
But friendliwise by stipulation fix
A slate for mutual advantage. Why,
Having the pick and choice of seats, should we
Forego them all but one? Nay, we'll take three,
And part them so among us that to each
Shall fall the fittest to his powers. In brief,
Let us establish a Portfolio Trust.




Aye, truly, 'tis a greed-and one
The offices imperfectly will sate,
But I'll stand in.


Well, so 'tis understood,
As you're the junior member of the Trust,
Politically younger and undead,
Speak, Michael: what portfolio do you choose?


I've thought the Postal service best would serve
My interest; but since I have my pick,
I'll take the War Department. It is known
Throughout the world, from Market street to Pine,
(For a Chicago journal told the tale)
How in this hand I lately took my life
And marched against great Buckley, thundering
My mandate that he count the ballots fair!
Earth heard and shrank to half her size! Yon moon,
Which rivaled then a liver's whiteness, paused
That night at Butchertown and daubed her face
With sheep's blood! Then my serried rank I drew
Back to my stronghold without loss. To mark
My care in saving human life and limb,
The Peace Society bestowed on me
Its leather medal and the title, too,
Of Colonel. Yes, my genius is for war. Good land!
I naturally dote on a brass band!


O, give me a life on the tented field,
Where the cannon roar and ring,
Where the flag floats free and the foemen yield
And bleed as the bullets sing.
But be it not mine to wage the fray
Where matters are ordered the other way,
For that is a different thing.

O, give me a life in the fierce campaign-
Let it be the life of my foe:
I'd rather fall upon him than the plain;
That service I'd fain forego.
O, a warrior's life is fine and fre
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Submitted on May 13, 2011

3:53 min read

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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