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The Mad Philosopher -- Ambrose Bierce

Not quite hate poetry, but a delightful brand of misanthropy nonetheless...

APHORISM, n.: Predigested wisdom
(Poem #879) The Mad Philosopher
 The flabby wine-skin of his brain
 Yields to some pathologic strain,
 And voids from its unstored abysm
 The driblet of an aphorism.
-- Ambrose Bierce
        (from "The Devil's Dictionary")

Note: abysm (n): an old spelling of 'abyss' ( the word has had five
variants, abime, abysm, abysmus, abyssus, abyss; of which abyss remains
asthe ordinary form, and abysm as archaic or poetic. -- OED )

While Bierce was an all-round misanthrope and cynic, he appears to have
reserved his greatest scorn for those he considered pretentious - the self
proclaimedly artistic, philosophic and/or spiritual. Today's poem is an
excellent example; there is not even an attempt at wit, just pure vitriol.

The poem is, nonetheless, memorable for several reasons. Invective is always
impressive if done well, of course, but there is more to it than that - the
central image is very well chosen, with its picture of aphorisms dribbling
out of a flabby wineskin, and the attendant suggestion of bibulousness on
the philosopher's part. The whole has a wonderfully epigrammatic quality
that makes up in large measure for its lack of wit.

martin.

Links:

  Biography of Bierce: poem #148

  The Devil's Dictionary:
    [broken link] http://rabi.phys.columbia.edu/~matmat/html/devils.html

30 comments: ( or Leave a comment )

vivian said...

If you are very fond of this sort of thing, look out in second-hand
bookshops for a little volume called "Invective and Abuse: An Anthology," by
Hugh Kingsmill, first published as two volumes in 1929-30, and then as a
combined edition in 1944 (Eyre and Spottiswoode).

All the best,
Vivian

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