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With a Book -- Ambrose Bierce

       
(Poem #148) With a Book
 Words shouting, singing, smiling, frowning---
        Sense lacking.
 Ah, nothing, more obscure than Browning,
        Save blacking.
-- Ambrose Bierce
Think of it as a last-gasp followon to the poems about poets theme <g>.

Bierce has written better poems, but I really couldn't resist this one
for the sheer unexpected beauty (or do I mean beautiful unexpectedness?)
of the pun at the end.

Of course, I strongly disagree with his assertion that Browning is
obscure or lacking in sense :)

Bierce, incidentally, was not primarily a poet, but a wit, satirist and
marvellous short story writer. His best known works include The Devil's
Dictionary, and the haunting short, "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge"
both highly recommended.

Blacking, incidentally, was the precursor of shoe polish.

m.

Biography:

Bierce, Ambrose

in full Ambrose Gwinnett Bierce

 b. June 24, 1842, Meigs county, Ohio, U.S.
 d. 1914, Mexico?

American newspaperman, wit, satirist, and author of sardonic short
stories based on themes of death and horror. His life ended in an
unsolved mystery.

Reared in Kosciusko county, Ind., Bierce became a printer's devil
(apprentice) on a Warsaw, Ind., paper after about a year in high school.
In 1861 he enlisted in the 9th Indiana Volunteers and fought in a number
of American Civil War battles, including Shiloh and Chickamauga. After
being seriously wounded in the Battle of Kennesaw Mountain in 1864, he
served until January 1865, and he received a merit promotion to major in
1867.

Resettling in San Francisco, which was experiencing an artistic
renaissance, he began contributing to periodicals, particularly the News
Letter, of which he became editor in 1868. Bierce was soon the literary
arbiter of the West Coast.

[..]

In 1877 he became associate editor of the San Francisco Argonaut but
left it in 1879-80 for an unsuccessful try at placer mining in
Rockerville in the Dakota Territory. Thereafter he was editor of the San
Francisco Wasp for five years. In 1887 he joined the staff of William
Randolph Hearst's San Francisco Examiner, for which he wrote the
"Prattler" column. In 1896 Bierce moved to Washington, D.C., where he
continued newspaper and magazine writing. In 1913, tired of American
life, he went to Mexico, then in the middle of a revolution led by
Pancho Villa. His end is a mystery, but a reasonable conjecture is that
he was killed in the siege of Ojinaga in January 1914.

Bierce separated from his wife, lost his two sons, and broke many
friendships. As a newspaper columnist, he specialized in critical
attacks on amateur poets, clergymen, bores, dishonest politicians, money
grabbers, pretenders, and frauds of all sorts. His principal books are
In the Midst of Life (1892), which included some of his finest stories,
such as "An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge," "A Horseman in the Sky,"
"The Eyes of the Panther," and "The Boarded Window"; and Can Such Things
Be? (1893), which included "The Damned Thing" and "Moxon's Master."
Bierce's The Devil' Dictionary (originally published in 1906 as The
Cynic's Word Book) is a volume of ironic, even bitter, definitions that
has often been reprinted. His Collected Works was published in 12
volumes, 1909-12. The Enlarged Devil's Dictionary, edited by E.J.
Hopkins, appeared in 1967.

        -- EB

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