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Ambrose Gwinett Bierce Quotes on Nature (14 Quotes)


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  • TIGHTS, n. An habiliment of the stage designed to reinforce the general acclamation of the press agent with a particular publicity. Public attention was once somewhat diverted from this garment to Miss Lillian Russell's refusal to wear it, and many were the conjectures as to her motive, the guess of Miss Pauline Hall showing a high order of ingenuity and sustained reflection. It was Miss Hall's belief that nature had not endowed Miss Russell with beautiful legs. This theory was impossible of acceptance by the male understanding, but the conception of a faulty female leg was of so prodigious originality as to rank among the most brilliant feats of philosophical speculation It is strange that in all the controversy regarding Miss Russell's aversion to tights no one seems to have thought to ascribe it to what was known among the ancients as modesty. The nature of that sentiment is now imperfectly understood, and possibly incapable of exposition with the vocabulary that remains to us. The study of lost arts has, however, been recently revived and some of the arts themselves recovered. This is an epoch of renaissances, and there is ground for hope that the primitive blush may be dragged from its hiding-place amongst the tombs of antiquity and hissed on to the stage.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • Embalm, v. To cheat vegetation by locking up the gases upon which it feeds. By embalming their dead and thereby deranging the natural balance between animal and vegetable life, the Egyptians made their once fertile and populous country barren and incapable of supporting more than a meagre crew. The modern metallic burial casket is a step in the same direction, and many a dead man who ought now to be ornamenting his neighbor's lawn as a tree, or enriching his table as a bunch of radishes, is doomed to a long inutility. We shall get him after awhile if we are spared, but in the meantime the violet and the rose are languishing for a nibble at his glutaeus maximus.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • TREE, n. A tall vegetable intended by nature to serve as a penal apparatus, though through a miscarriage of justice most trees bear only a negligible fruit, or none at all. When naturally fruited, the tree is a beneficient agency of civilization and an important factor in public morals. In the stern West and the sensitive South its fruit (white and black respectively) though not eaten, is agreeable to the public taste and, though not exported, profitable to the general welfare. That the legitimate relation of the tree to justice was no discovery of Judge Lynch (who, indeed, conceded it no primacy over the lamp-post and the bridge-girder) is made plain by the following passage from Morryster, who antedated him by two centuries; While in yt londe I was carried to see ye Ghogo tree, whereof I had hearde moch talk but sayynge yt I saw naught remarkabyll in it, ye hed manne of ye villayge where it grewe made answer as followeth; Ye tree is not nowe in fruite, but in his seasonne you shall see dependynge fr. his braunches all soch as have affroynted ye King his Majesty. And I was furder tolde yt ye worde Ghogo sygnifyeth in yr tong ye same as rapscal in our owne. --Trauvells in ye Easte.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • OBSESSED, p. p. Vexed by an evil spirit, like the Gadarene swine and other critics. Obsession was once more common than it is now. Arasthus tells of a peasant who was occupied by a different devil for every day in the week, and on Sundays by two. They were frequently seen, always walking in his shadow, when he had one, but were finally driven away by the village notary, a holy man but they took the peasant with them, for he vanished utterly. A devil thrown out of a woman by the Archbishop of Rheims ran through the trees, pursued by a hundred persons, until the open country was reached, where by a leap higher than a church spire he escaped into a bird. A chaplain in Cromwell's army exorcised a soldier's obsessing devil by throwing the soldier into the water, when the devil came to the surface. The soldier, unfortunately, did not.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • BIRTH, n. The first and direst of all disasters. As to the nature of it there appears to be no uniformity. Castor and Pollux were born from the egg. Pallas came out of a skull. Galatea was once a block of stone. Peresilis, who wrote in the tenth century, avers that he grew up out of the ground where a priest had spilled holy water. It is known that Arimaxus was derived from a hole in the earth, made by a stroke of lightning. Leucomedon was the son of a cavern in Mount Aetna, and I have myself seen a man come out of a wine cellar.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)


  • RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable. What is your religion my son inquired the Archbishop of Rheims. Pardon, monseigneur, replied Rochebriant I am ashamed of it. Then why do you not become an atheist; Impossible I should be ashamed of atheism. In that case, monsieur, you should join the Protestants.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • 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.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • PALM, n. A species of tree having several varieties, of which the familiar itching palm (Palma hominis) is most widely distributed and sedulously cultivated. This noble vegetable exudes a kind of invisible gum, which may be detected by applying to the bark a piece of gold or silver. The metal will adhere with remarkable tenacity. The fruit of the itching palm is so bitter and unsatisfying that a considerable percentage of it is sometimes given away in what are known as benefactions.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • FROG, n. A reptile with edible legs. The first mention of frogs in profane literature is in Homer's narrative of the war between them and the mice. Skeptical persons have doubted Homer's authorship of the work, but the learned, ingenious and industrious Dr. Schliemann has set the question forever at rest by uncovering the bones of the slain frogs. One of the forms of moral suasion by which Pharaoh was besought to favor the Israelities was a plague of frogs, but Pharaoh, who liked them fricasees, remarked, with truly oriental stoicism, that he could stand it as long as the frogs and the Jews could so the programme was changed. The frog is a diligent songster, having a good voice but no ear. The libretto of his favorite opera, as written by Aristophanes, is brief, simple and effective --brekekex-koax the music is apparently by that eminent composer, Richard Wagner. Horses have a frog in each hoof --a thoughtful provision of nature, enabling them to shine in a hurdle race.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • Religions are conclusions for which the facts of nature supply no major premises
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • TROGLODYTE, n. Specifically, a cave-dweller of the paleolithic period, after the Tree and before the Flat. A famous community of troglodytes dwelt with David in the Cave of Adullam. The colony consisted of every one that was in distress, and every one that was in debt, and every one that was discontented --in brief, all the Socialists of Judah.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • 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.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • SCARABEE, n. The same as scarabaeus.He fell by his own hand Beneath the great oak tree. He'd traveled in a foreign land. He tried to make her understand The dance that's called the Saraband, But he called it Scarabee. He had called it so through an afternoon, And she, the light of his harem if so might be, Had smiled and said naught. O the body was fair to see, All frosted there in the shine o' the moon -- Dead for a Scarabee And a recollection that came too late. O Fate They buried him where he lay, He sleeps awaiting the Day, In state, And two Possible Puns, moon-eyed and wan, Gloom over the grave and then move on. Dead for a Scarabee --Fernando Tapple
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • 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.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)


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