To A Word-Warrior

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

Frank Pixley, you, who kiss the hand
That strove to cut the country's throat,
Cannot forgive the hands that smote
Applauding in a distant land,

Applauding carelessly, as one
The weaker willing to befriend
Until the quarrel's at an end,
Then learn by whom it was begun.

When North was pitted against South
Non-combatants on either side
In calculating fury vied,
And fought their foes by word of mouth.

That devil's-camisade you led
With formidable feats of tongue.
Upon the battle's rear you hung
With Samson's weapon slew the dead!

So hot the ardor of your soul
That every fierce civilian came,
His torch to kindle at your name,
Or have you blow his cooling coal.

Men prematurely left their beds
And sought the gelid bath-so great
The heat and splendor of your hate
Of Englishmen and 'Copperheads.'

King Liar of deceitful men,
For imposition doubly armed!
The patriots whom your speaking charmed
You stung to madness with your pen.

There was a certain journal here,
Its English owner growing rich-
Your hand the treason wrote for which
A mob cut short its curst career.

If, Pixley, you had not the brain
To know the true from false, or you
To Truth had courage to be true,
And loyal to her perfect reign;

If you had not your powers arrayed
To serve the wrong by tricksy speech,
Nor pushed yourself within the reach
Of retribution's accolade,

I had not had the will to go
Outside the olive-bordered path
Of peace to cut the birch of wrath,
And strip your body for the blow.

Behold how dark the war-clouds rise
About the mother of our race!
The lightnings gild her tranquil face
And glitter in her patient eyes.

Her children throng the hither flood
And lean intent above the beach.
Their beating hearts inhibit speech
With stifling tides of English blood.

'Their skies, but not their hearts, they change
Who go in ships across the sea'-
Through all centuries to be
The strange new land will still be strange.

The Island Mother holds in gage
The souls of sons she never saw;
Superior to law, the law
Of sympathetic heritage.

Forgotten now the foolish reign
Of wrath which sundered trivial ties.
A soldier's sabre vainly tries
To cleave a spiritual chain.

The iron in our blood affines,
Though fratricidal hands may spill.
Shall Hate be throned on Bunker Hill,
Yet Love abide at Seven Pines?

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Submitted on May 13, 2011

Modified on March 14, 2023

2:04 min read

Quick analysis:

Closest metre Iambic tetrameter
Characters 2,228
Words 407
Stanzas 17
Stanza Lengths 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4, 4

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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