Ambrose Gwinett Bierce Quotes on Books (10 Quotes)


    ASS, n. A public singer with a good voice but no ear. In Virginia City, Nevada, he is called the Washoe Canary, in Dakota, the Senator, and everywhere the Donkey. The animal is widely and variously celebrated in the literature, art and religion of every age and country no other so engages and fires the human imagination as this noble vertebrate. Indeed, it is doubted by some (Ramasilus, lib. II., De Clem., and C. Stantatus, De Temperamente) if it is not a god and as such we know it was worshiped by the Etruscans, and, if we may believe Macrobious, by the Cupasians also. Of the only two animals admitted into the Mahometan Paradise along with the souls of men, the ass that carried Balaam is one, the dog of the Seven Sleepers the other. This is no small distinction. From what has been written about this beast might be compiled a library of great splendor and magnitude, rivalling that of the Shakespearean cult, and that which clusters about the Bible. It may be said, generally, that all literature is more or less Asinine. Hail, holy Ass the quiring angels sing; Priest of Unreason, and of Discords King Great co-Creator, let Thy glory shine God made all else, the Mule, the Mule is thine --G. J.

    EXCOMMUNICATION, n.This excommunication is a word In speech ecclesiastical oft heard, And means the damning, with bell, book and candle, Some sinner whose opinions are a scandal -- A rite permitting Satan to enslave him Forever, and forbidding Christ to save him. --Gat Huckle

    ERUDITION, n. Dust shaken out of a book into an empty skull.So wide his erudition's mighty span, He knew Creation's origin and plan And only came by accident to grief -- He thought, poor man, 'twas right to be a thief. --Romach Pute

    KORAN, n. A book which the Mohammedans foolishly believe to have been written by divine inspiration, but which Christians know to be a wicked imposture, contradictory to the Holy Scriptures.

    ABRACADABRA. 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, Abracada, abracad, 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; He's dead, 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. --Jamrach Holobom.


    SCARIFICATION, n. A form of penance practised by the mediaeval pious. The rite was performed, sometimes with a knife, sometimes with a hot iron, but always, says Arsenius Asceticus, acceptably if the penitent spared himself no pain nor harmless disfigurement. Scarification, with other crude penances, has now been superseded by benefaction. The founding of a library or endowment of a university is said to yield to the penitent a sharper and more lasting pain than is conferred by the knife or iron, and is therefore a surer means of grace. There are, however, two grave objections to it as a penitential method the good that it does and the taint of justice.

    EVERLASTING, adj. Lasting forever. It is with no small diffidence that I venture to offer this brief and elementary definition, for I am not unaware of the existence of a bulky volume by a sometime Bishop of Worcester, entitled, A Partial Definition of the Word Everlasting, as Used in the Authorized Version of the Holy Scriptures. His book was once esteemed of great authority in the Anglican Church, and is still, I understand, studied with pleasure to the mind and profit of the soul.

    LORE, n. Learning --particularly that sort which is not derived from a regular course of instruction but comes of the reading of occult books, or by nature. This latter is commonly designated as folk-lore and embraces popularly myths and superstitions. In Baring-Gould's Curious Myths of the Middle Ages the reader will find many of these traced backward, through various people son converging lines, toward a common origin in remote antiquity. Among these are the fables of Teddy the Giant Killer, The Sleeping John Sharp Williams, Little Red Riding Hood and the Sugar Trust, Beauty and the Brisbane, The Seven Aldermen of Ephesus, Rip Van Fairbanks, and so forth. The fable with Goethe so affectingly relates under the title of The Erl- King was known two thousand years ago in Greece as The Demos and the Infant Industry. One of the most general and ancient of these myths is that Arabian tale of Ali Baba and the Forty Rockefellers.

    RELIQUARY, n. A receptacle for such sacred objects as pieces of the true cross, short-ribs of the saints, the ears of Balaam's ass, the lung of the cock that called Peter to repentance and so forth. Reliquaries are commonly of metal, and provided with a lock to prevent the contents from coming out and performing miracles at unseasonable times. A feather from the wing of the Angel of the Annunciation once escaped during a sermon in Saint Peter's and so tickled the noses of the congregation that they woke and sneezed with great vehemence three times each. It is related in the Gesta Sanctorum that a sacristan in the Canterbury cathedral surprised the head of Saint Dennis in the library. Reprimanded by its stern custodian, it explained that it was seeking a body of doctrine. This unseemly levity so raged the diocesan that the offender was publicly anathematized, thrown into the Stour and replaced by another head of Saint Dennis, brought from Rome.

    DEPUTY, n. A male relative of an office-holder, or of his bondsman. The deputy is commonly a beautiful young man, with a red necktie and an intricate system of cobwebs extending from his nose to his desk. When accidentally struck by the janitor's broom, he gives off a cloud of dust.Chief Deputy, the Master cried,To-day the books are to be tried By experts and accountants who Have been commissioned to go through Our office here, to see if we Have stolen injudiciously. Please have the proper entries made, The proper balances displayed, Conforming to the whole amount Of cash on hand --which they will count. I've long admired your punctual way -- Here at the break and close of day, Confronting in your chair the crowd Of business men, whose voices loud And gestures violent you quell By some mysterious, calm spell -- Some magic lurking in your look That brings the noisiest to book And spreads a holy and profound Tranquillity o'er all around. So orderly all's done that they Who came to draw remain to pay. But now the time demands, at last, That you employ your genius vast In energies more active. Rise And shake the lightnings from your eyes Inspire your underlings, and fling Your spirit into everything The Master's hand here dealt a whack Upon the Deputy's bent back, When straightway to the floor there fell A shrunken globe, a rattling shell A blackened, withered, eyeless head The man had been a twelvemonth dead. --Jamrach Holobom


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