Ambrose Bierce

24 June 1842 - 26 December 1913 / Horse Cave Creek, Ohio

A Spade

Precursor of our woes, historic spade,
What dismal records burn upon thy blade!
On thee I see the maculating stains
Of passengers' commingled blood and brains.
In this red rust a widow's curse appears,
And here an orphan tarnished thee with tears.
Upon thy handle sanguinary bands
Reveal the clutching of thine owner's hands
When first he wielded thee with vigor brave
To cut a sod and dig a people's grave
(For they who are debauched are dead and ought,
In God's name, to be hid from sight and thought.)
Within thee, as within a magic glass,
I seem to see a foul procession pass
Judges with ermine dragging in the mud
And spotted here and there with guiltless blood;
Gold-greedy legislators jingling bribes;
Kept editors and sycophantic scribes;
Liars in swarms and plunderers in tribes;
They fade away before the night's advance,
And fancy figures thee a devil's lance
Gleaming portentous through the misty shade,
While ghosts of murdered virtues shriek about my blade!
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