CHRISTIAN, n. One who believes that the New Testament is a divinely inspired book admirably suited to the spiritual needs of his neighbor. One who follows the teachings of Christ in so far as they are not inconsistent with a life of sin.
(Poem #924) Christian
I dreamed I stood upon a hill, and, lo! The godly multitudes walked to and fro Beneath, in Sabbath garments fitly clad, With pious mien, appropriately sad, While all the church bells made a solemn din -- A fire-alarm to those who lived in sin. Then saw I gazing thoughtfully below, With tranquil face, upon that holy show A tall, spare figure in a robe of white, Whose eyes diffused a melancholy light. "God keep you, stranger," I exclaimed. "You are No doubt (your habit shows it) from afar; And yet I entertain the hope that you, Like these good people, are a Christian too." He raised his eyes and with a look so stern It made me with a thousand blushes burn Replied -- his manner with disdain was spiced: "What! I a Christian? No, indeed! I'm Christ."
(from 'The Devil's Dictionary', under the 'pseudonym' G.J.) Note: G.J.: Father Gassalasca Jape, S. J., one of the many pseudonyms Bierce attributed the verses in the Devil's Dictionary to. Today's poem expands upon a far-from-original idea, true, but it does so uncommonly well. Bierce's verse is scalpel sharp and scathing; it performs, furthermore, the difficult feat of pulling no punches while simultaneously avoiding the least trace of heavyhandedness. Similarly, the fact that the reader can see the ending coming robs it of very little of its impact - the sheer precision and vividness of the writing gets the point across admirably, far more than the twist in the ending does. Links: Biography: http://www.blupete.com/Literature/Biographies/Literary/Bierce.htm The Devil's Dictionary: [broken link] http://rabi.phys.columbia.edu/~matmat/html/devils.html Bierce poems on Minstrels: Poem #148, "With a Book" Poem #320, "Rimer" Poem #400, "Elegy" Poem #735, "Decalogue" Poem #879, "The Mad Philosopher" "Decalogue", in particular, makes an interesting companion piece to today's poem. -martin