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Ambrose Gwinett Bierce Quotes (242 Quotes)


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  • LETTUCE, n. An herb of the genus Lactuca, Wherewith, says that pious gastronome, Hengist Pelly, God has been pleased to reward the good and punish the wicked. For by his inner light the righteous man has discerned a manner of compounding for it a dressing to the appetency whereof a multitude of gustible condiments conspire, being reconciled and ameliorated with profusion of oil, the entire comestible making glad the heart of the godly and causing his face to shine. But the person of spiritual unworth is successfully tempted to the Adversary to eat of lettuce with destitution of oil, mustard, egg, salt and garlic, and with a rascal bath of vinegar polluted with sugar. Wherefore the person of spiritual unworth suffers an intestinal pang of strange complexity and raises the song.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • ALLEGIANCE, n.This thing Allegiance, as I suppose, Is a ring fitted in the subject's nose, Whereby that organ is kept rightly pointed To smell the sweetness of the Lord's anointed. --G.J.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • 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.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • FREEDOM, n. Exemption from the stress of authority in a beggarly half dozen of restraint's infinite multitude of methods. A political condition that every nation supposes itself to enjoy in virtual monopoly. Liberty. The distinction between freedom and liberty is not accurately known naturalists have never been able to find a living specimen of either. Freedom, as every schoolboy knows, Once shrieked as Kosciusko fell On every wind, indeed, that blows I hear her yell. She screams whenever monarchs meet, And parliaments as well, To bind the chains about her feet And toll her knell. And when the sovereign people cast The votes they cannot spell, Upon the pestilential blast Her clamors swell. For all to whom the power's given To sway or to compel, Among themselves apportion Heaven And give her Hell. --Blary O'Gary.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • 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)


  • INSECTIVORA, n.See, cries the chorus of admiring preachers,How Providence provides for all His creaturesHis care, the gnat said, even the insects follows For us He has provided wrens and swallows. --Sempen Railey
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • SMITHAREEN, n. A fragment, a decomponent part, a remain. The word is used variously, but in the following verse on a noted female reformer who opposed bicycle-riding by women because it led them to the devil it is seen at its best; The wheels go round without a sound -- The maidens hold high revel In sinful mood, insanely gay, True spinsters spin adown the way From duty to the devil They laugh, they sing, and --ting-a-ling Their bells go all the morning Their lanterns bright bestar the night Pedestrians a-warning. With lifted hands Miss Charlotte stands, Good-Lording and O-mying, Her rheumatism forgotten quite, Her fat with anger frying. She blocks the path that leads to wrath, Jack Satan's power defying. The wheels go round without a sound The lights burn red and blue and green. What's this that's found upon the ground Poor Charlotte Smith's a smithareen --John William Yope.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • DISCUSSION, n. A method of confirming others in their errors.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • REFUGE, n. Anything assuring protection to one in peril. Moses and Joshua provided six cities of refuge --Bezer, Golan, Ramoth, Kadesh, Schekem and Hebron --to which one who had taken life inadvertently could flee when hunted by relatives of the deceased. This admirable expedient supplied him with wholesome exercise and enabled them to enjoy the pleasures of the chase whereby the soul of the dead man was appropriately honored by observations akin to the funeral games of early Greece.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • Appeal. In law, to put the dice into the box for another throw.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • DEAD, adj.Done with the work of breathing done With all the world the mad race run Though to the end the golden goal Attained and found to be a hole --Squatol Johnes
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • ENVELOPE, n. The coffin of a document the scabbard of a bill the husk of a remittance the bed-gown of a love-letter.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • TORTOISE, n. A creature thoughtfully created to supply occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat Delaso: TO MY PET TORTOISE. My friend, you are not graceful --not at all Your gait's between a stagger and a sprawl. Nor are you beautiful your head's a snake's To look at, and I do not doubt it aches. As to your feet, they'd make an angel weep.'Tis true you take them in whene'er you sleep. No, you're not pretty, but you have, I own, A certain firmness --mostly you're sic backbone. Firmness and strength (you have a giant's thews) Are virtues that the great know how to use --I wish that they did not yet, on the whole, You lack --excuse my mentioning it --Soul. So, to be candid, unreserved and true, I'd rather you were I than I were you. Perhaps, however, in a time to be, When Man's extinct, a better world may see Your progeny in power and control, Due to the genesis and growth of Soul. So I salute you as a reptile grand Predestined to regenerate the land. Father of Possibilities, O deign To accept the homage of a dying reign; In the far region of the unforeknown I dream a tortoise upon every throne. I see an Emperor his head withdraw Into his carapace for fear of Law; A King who carries something else than fat, Howe'er acceptably he carries thatA President not strenuously bent On punishment of audible dissent --Who never shot (it were a vain attack) An armed or unarmed tortoise in the backSubject and citizens that feel no need To make the March of Mind a wild stampedeAll progress slow, contemplative, sedate, And Take your time the word, in Church and State. O Tortoise, 'tis a happy, happy dream, My glorious testudinous regimeI wish in Eden you'd brought this about By slouching in and chasing Adam out.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • Patience - a minor form of despair disguised as a virtue.
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)

  • EDITOR, n. A person who combines the judicial functions of Minos, Rhadamanthus and Aeacus, but is placable with an obolus a severely virtuous censor, but so charitable withal that he tolerates the virtues of others and the vices of himself who flings about him the splintering lightning and sturdy thunders of admonition till he resembles a bunch of firecrackers petulantly uttering his mind at the tail of a dog then straightway murmurs a mild, melodious lay, soft as the cooing of a donkey intoning its prayer to the evening star. Master of mysteries and lord of law, high-pinnacled upon the throne of thought, his face suffused with the dim splendors of the Transfiguration, his legs intertwisted and his tongue a-cheek, the editor spills his will along the paper and cuts it off in lengths to suit. And at intervals from behind the veil of the temple is heard the voice of the foreman demanding three inches of wit and six lines of religious meditation, or bidding him turn off the wisdom and whack up some pathos.O, the Lord of Law on the Throne of Thought, A gilded impostor is he. Of shreds and patches his robes are wrought, His crown is brass, Himself an ass, And his power is fiddle-dee-dee. Prankily, crankily prating of naught, Silly old quilly old Monarch of Thought. Public opinion's camp-follower he, Thundering, blundering, plundering free. Affected, Ungracious, Suspected, Mendacious, Respected contemporaree --J.H. Bumbleshook
    (Ambrose Gwinett Bierce)


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