The Devil's Dictionary
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by Ambose Bierce
Ambrose Bierce wrote extensively of his
experiences in the Civil War. He also wrote a great number of stories carried in
numerous newspapers on the West Coast. One of these columns was collected and
published as the Devil's Dictionary. In 1913, Bierce joined the revolutionary
army of pancho Villa in Mexico's Revolution (click here), and died in the
Ojinaga on January 11, 1914, at the age of 72.
Poor Isabella's Dead, whose abdication
Set all tongues wagging in the Spanish nation.
For that performance 'twere unfair to scold her:
She wisely left a throne too hot to hold her.
To History she'll be no royal riddle --
Merely a plain parched pea that jumped the griddle.
By _Abracadabra_ we signify
An infinite number of things.
'Tis the answer to What? and How? and Why?
And Whence? and Whither? -- a word whereby
The Truth (with the comfort it brings)
Is open to all who grope in night,
Crying for Wisdom's holy light.
Whether the word is a verb or a noun
Is knowledge beyond my reach.
I only know that 'tis handed down.
From sage to sage,
From age to age --
An immortal part of speech!
Of an ancient man the tale is told
That he lived to be ten centuries old,
In a cave on a mountain side.
(True, he finally died.)
The fame of his wisdom filled the land,
For his head was bald, and you'll understand
His beard was long and white
And his eyes uncommonly bright.
Philosophers gathered from far and near
To sit at his feat and hear and hear,
Though he never was heard
To utter a word
But "_Abracadabra, abracadab_,
_Abraca, abrac, abra, ab!_"
'Twas all he had,
'Twas all they wanted to hear, and each
Made copious notes of the mystical speech,
Which they published next --
A trickle of text
In the meadow of commentary.
Mighty big books were these,
In a number, as leaves of trees;
In learning, remarkably -- very!
As I said,
And the books of the sages have perished,
But his wisdom is sacredly cherished.
In _Abracadabra_ it solemnly rings,
Like an ancient bell that forever swings.
O, I love to hear
That word make clear
Humanity's General Sense of Things.
When in the course of human events it becomes necessary for people to abridge their king, a decent respect for the opinions of mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the separation.
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