The Enemy of Human Souls
Sat grieving at the cost of coals;
For hell had been annexed of late,
And was a sovereign Southern State.
“It were no more than right,” said he,
“That I should get my fuel free
The duty, neither just or wise,
Compels me to economize–
Whereby my broilers, every one,
Are execrably underdone.
What would they have?–although I yearn
To do them nicely to a turn,
I can’t afford an honest heat.
This tariff makes even devils cheat!
I’m ruined and my humble trade
All rascals may at will invade:
Beneath my nose the public press
Outdoes me in sulphureousness;
The bar ingeniously applies
To my undoing my own lies;
My medicines the doctors use
(Albeit mainly) to refuse
To me my fair and rightful prey
And keep their own in shape to pay;
The preachers by example teach
What, scorning to perform, I preach;
And statesman, aping me, all make
More promises than they can break.
Against such competition I
Lift up a disregarded cry.
Since all ignore my just complaint,
By Hokey-Pokey! I’ll turn saint!”
Now, the Republicans, who all
Are saints, began at once to bawl
Against his competition; so
There was a devil of a go!
They locked horns with him, tête-à-tête
In acrimonious debate,
Till Democrats, forlorn and lone,
Had hopes of coming by their own.
That evil to avert in haste
The two belligerents embraced;
But since ’twere wicked to relax
A tittle of a Sacred Tax,
‘Twas finally agreed to grant
The bold Insurgent-protestant
A bounty on each soul that fell
Into his ineffectual Hell.
Edam Smith (Ambrose Bierce)