FEAST, n. A festival. A religious celebration usually signalized by gluttony and drunkenness, frequently in honor of some holy person distinguished for abstemiousness. In the Roman Catholic Church feasts are movable and immovable, but the celebrants are uniformly immovable until they are full. In their earliest development these entertainments took the form of feasts for the dead such were held by the Greeks, under the name Nemeseia, by the Aztecs and Peruvians, as in modern times they are popular with the Chinese though it is believed that the ancient dead, like the modern, were light eaters. Among the many feasts of the Romans was the Novemdiale, which was held, according to Livy, whenever stones fell from heaven.
SATAN, n. One of the Creator's lamentable mistakes, repented in sashcloth and axes. Being instated as an archangel, Satan made himself multifariously objectionable and was finally expelled from Heaven. Halfway in his descent he paused, bent his head in thought a moment and at last went back. There is one favor that I should like to ask, said he. Name it. Man, I understand, is about to be created. He will need laws. What, wretch you his appointed adversary, charged from the dawn of eternity with hatred of his soul --you ask for the right to make his lawsPardon what I have to ask is that he be permitted to make them himself. It was so ordered.
EGOTIST, n. A person of low taste, more interested in himself than in me.Megaceph, chosen to serve the State In the halls of legislative debate, One day with all his credentials came To the capitol's door and announced his name. The doorkeeper looked, with a comical twist Of the face, at the eminent egotist, And said Go away, for we settle here All manner of questions, knotty and queer, And we cannot have, when the speaker demands To be told how every member stands, A man who to all things under the sky Assents by eternally voting 'I'.
PATRIOTISM, n. Combustible rubbish read to the torch of any one ambitious to illuminate his name. In Dr. Johnson's famous dictionary patriotism is defined as the last resort of a scoundrel. With all due respect to an enlightened but inferior lexicographer
K is a consonant that we get from the Greeks, but it can be traced away back beyond them to the Cerathians, a small commercial nation inhabiting the peninsula of Smero. In their tongue it was called Klatch, which means destroyed. The form of the letter was originally precisely that of our H, but the erudite Dr. Snedeker explains that it was altered to its present shape to commemorate the destruction of the great temple of Jarute by an earthquake, circa 730 B.C. This building was famous for the two lofty columns of its portico, one of which was broken in half by the catastrophe, the other remaining intact. As the earlier form of the letter is supposed to have been suggested by these pillars, so, it is thought by the great antiquary, its later was adopted as a simple and natural --not to say touching --means of keeping the calamity ever in the national memory. It is not known if the name of the letter was altered as an additional mnemonic, or if the name was always Klatch and the destruction one of nature's pums. As each theory seems probable enough, I see no objection to believing both --and Dr. Snedeker arrayed himself on that side of the question.
YOKE, n. An implement, madam, to whose Latin name, jugum, we owe one of the most illuminating words in our language --a word that defines the matrimonial situation with precision, point and poignancy. A thousand apologies for withholding it.
CARMELITE, n. A mendicant friar of the order of Mount Carmel.As Death was a-rising out one day, Across Mount Camel he took his way, Where he met a mendicant monk, Some three or four quarters drunk, With a holy leer and a pious grin, Ragged and fat and as saucy as sin, Who held out his hands and criedGive, give in Charity's name, I pray. Give in the name of the Church. O give, Give that her holy sons may live And Death replied, Smiling long and wideI'll give, holy father, I'll give thee --a ride.With a rattle and bang Of his bones, he sprang From his famous Pale Horse, with his spear By the neck and the foot Seized the fellow, and put Him astride with his face to the rear.The Monarch laughed loud with a sound that fell Like clods on the coffin's sounding shellHo, ho A beggar on horseback, they say, Will ride to the devil --and thump Fell the flat of his dart on the rump Of the charger, which galloped away.Faster and faster and faster it flew, Till the rocks and the flocks and the trees that grew By the road were dim and blended and blue To the wild, wild eyes Of the rider --in size Resembling a couple of blackberry pies. Death laughed again, as a tomb might laugh At a burial service spoiled, And the mourners' intentions foiled By the body erecting Its head and objecting To further proceedings in its behalf.Many a year and many a day Have passed since these events away. The monk has long been a dusty corse, And Death has never recovered his horse. For the friar got hold of its tail, And steered it within the pale Of the monastery gray, Where the beast was stabled and fed With barley and oil and bread Till fatter it grew than the fattest friar, And so in due course was appointed Prior. --G.J.
W (double U) has, of all the letters in our alphabet, the only cumbrous name, the names of the others being monosyllabic. This advantage of the Roman alphabet over the Grecian is the more valued after audibly spelling out some simple Greek word, like epixoriambikos. Still, it is now thought by the learned that other agencies than the difference of the two alphabets may have been concerned in the decline of the glory that was Greece and the rise of the grandeur that was Rome. There can be no doubt, however, that by simplifying the name of W (calling it wow, for example) our civilization could be, if not promoted, at least better endured.
EMANCIPATION, n. A bondman's change from the tyranny of another to the despotism of himself.He was a slave at word he went and came His iron collar cut him to the bone. Then Liberty erased his owner's name, Tightened the rivets and inscribed his own. --G.J.
More Ambrose Gwinett Bierce Quotations (Based on Topics)
Man - Christianity - Nature - Law & Regulation - God - Time - World - Mind - Death & Dying - Books - Name - Kings & Queens - Life - Night - Sons - Woman - Power - Business & Commerce - Soul - View All Ambrose Gwinett Bierce Quotations
- - - - - - - - - - - - - - - - -