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Literature and Ideas



The Devil's Dictionary

Ambrose Bierce

A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the hoisting apparatus.

Once I seen a human ruin
    In an elevator-well,
And his members was bestrewin'
    All the place where he had fell.

And I says, apostrophisin'
    That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
    That I tremble for your neck!"

Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
    And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
    For it's been a fortnight broke."

Then, for further comprehension
    Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
    On his various arms and legs —

How they all are contumacious;
    Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
    T'other one an alibi.

These particulars is mentioned
    For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
    To specifical relate.

None is worser to be dreaded
    That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
    In that elevator-well.

Now this tale is allegoric —
    It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
    And the feller didn't fall.

I opine it isn't moral
    For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
    As was gotten by deceit.

For 'tis Politics intended
    By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
    If his talent is the kind.

Col. Bryan had the talent
    (For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
    Till his head begun to swim.

Then the rope it broke above him
    And he painful come to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
    For his detrimented worth.

Though he's livin' none would know him,
    Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
    Frequent oil your safety-clutch.

Porfer Poog