The Oleomargarine Man

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



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
That 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
That 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
That 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.'

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 05, 2023

2:01 min read
66

Quick analysis:

Scheme aabbccddeefF ccxbgghheeeiihhjjfF kkllmmnnooppaxfF qqrrssttuubxffxu
Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 2,100
Words 400
Stanzas 4
Stanza Lengths 12, 19, 16, 16

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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