The Devil's Dictionary

by Ambrose Bierce



A mechanical device acting automatically to prevent the fall of an elevator, or cage, in case of an accident to the hoisting apparatus.

 Once I seen a human ruin
In an elevator-well,
And his members was bestrewin'
All the place where he had fell.
 And I says, apostrophisin'
That uncommon woful wreck:
"Your position's so surprisin'
That I tremble for your neck!"
 Then that ruin, smilin' sadly
And impressive, up and spoke:
"Well, I wouldn't tremble badly,
For it's been a fortnight broke."
 Then, for further comprehension
Of his attitude, he begs
I will focus my attention
On his various arms and legs —
 How they all are contumacious;
Where they each, respective, lie;
How one trotter proves ungracious,
T'other one an alibi.
 These particulars is mentioned
For to show his dismal state,
Which I wasn't first intentioned
To specifical relate.
 None is worser to be dreaded
That I ever have heard tell
Than the gent's who there was spreaded
In that elevator-well.
 Now this tale is allegoric —
It is figurative all,
For the well is metaphoric
And the feller didn't fall.
 I opine it isn't moral
For a writer-man to cheat,
And despise to wear a laurel
As was gotten by deceit.
 For 'tis Politics intended
By the elevator, mind,
It will boost a person splendid
If his talent is the kind.
 Col. Bryan had the talent
(For the busted man is him)
And it shot him up right gallant
Till his head begun to swim.
 Then the rope it broke above him
And he painful come to earth
Where there's nobody to love him
For his detrimented worth.
 Though he's livin' none would know him,
Or at leastwise not as such.
Moral of this woful poem:
Frequent oil your safety-clutch.

- Porfer Poog