The Devil's Dictionary

by Ambrose Bierce



A creature thoughtfully created to supply occasion for the following lines by the illustrious Ambat Delaso:

 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 that;
 A President not strenuously bent
On punishment of audible dissent —
 Who never shot (it were a vain attack)
An armed or unarmed tortoise in the back;
 Subject and citizens that feel no need
To make the March of Mind a wild stampede;
 All progress slow, contemplative, sedate,
And "Take your time" the word, in Church and State.
 O Tortoise, 'tis a happy, happy dream,
My glorious testudinous regime!
 I wish in Eden you'd brought this about
By slouching in and chasing Adam out.